Rather than enter Dekalb’s NIU Convocation Center with some sort of flashy opening or technological feat, Brad Paisley simply strapped on an acoustic guitar and strutted onstage with the house lights still on. As fans returned to their seats from the beer and bathroom lines, they were treated to the headliner, alongside openers Parmalee and The Swon Brothers, turning in bare bones set focused purely on musicianship and everyone’s roots in actual country music (rather than what the radio rarely resembles these days).
Throw in some Rick Springfield and Van Halen riffs, snippets of stand-up comedy, plus a guitar giveaway to a lucky fan, and Paisley offered several unexpected gifts to an enthusiastic audience who were clearly entertained and hopefully learned a little more about his treasured musical lineage.
Not only was it a testament to the talents of those on the Country Nation World Tour, but also respect for a genre that’s seemed to lose its compass as of late. And even as the houselights went down and a giant video wall lit up the entire back wall of the arena, that spirit continued as the singer/guitar slinger blended retro and modern elements to the official set’s opener “Moonshine In The Trunk,” a trend shared in several selections throughout his 12 million album selling career.
Across the next 100 minutes or so, Paisley also delivered the anthemic “Southern Comfort Zone,” the witty social commentaries “Celebrity” and “I’m Still A Guy,” plus the reverent “This Is Country Music” (accompanied by footage of everyone from Johnny Cash to George Jones and Dolly Parton on down). All the while, the Grand Ole Opry member and his backing musicians’ chops were at an all time high, which was further reinforced during a completely unplugged set on a small stage in the back of the arena.
Those seeking visual spectacle were indulged with the party-charged “American Saturday Night” (when comic book characters leapt off the jumbotron), along with the beach-themed “Beat This Summer” and the meaty “Mud On The Tires” (featuring a cheeky “Brad Year” tire circling his face on the big screen). Throw in some Rick Springfield and Van Halen riffs, snippets of stand-up comedy, plus a guitar giveaway to a lucky fan, and Paisley offered several unexpected gifts to an enthusiastic audience who were clearly entertained and hopefully learned a little more about his treasured musical lineage.
Brad Paisley returns to Chicago with Dierks Bentley and Florida Georgia Line as one of the headliners for the first ever Windy City LakeShake at FirstMerit Bank Pavilion at Northerly Island June 19-21. For additional details, visit lakeshakefestival.com and www.livenation.com.