It ain't hip to sing about tractors, trucks, little towns, and mama, yeah that might be true. But this is country music . . . .and we do - "This is Country Music"
Brad Paisley has painted himself into a corner.
His songs are just too likeable and his stage presence is so magnetic that he'll be singing "I'm Gonna Miss Her" for the rest of his career. As of late, Paisley has attempted to enter certain cultural conversations, but let's face it, he will never change the world through his music. His songs don't need to do anything but take a listener to a place where it's OK to take a long pull from a Miller Lite tallboy before kissing your sweetie at the rodeo.
It is in this spirit that Paisley's songs delivered on opening night of RodeoHouston 2014. Sort of.
The crowd of 56,569 Tuesday night — the most well attended opener in five years — was heavily composed of devoted Paisley fans who clearly didn't mind that this year's performance was short on nearly everything that makes a Brad Paisley show an enjoyable spectacle.
Notable absences in the opening night set were the heavy stage banter and downright good guitar work (a talent that Paisley doesn't get enough credit for) that made his previous rodeo stops memorable. However, I'd like to think that the absence of the misguided and horribly executed "Accidental Racist" from last year's Wheelhouse likely didn't bother anyone.
What Paisley's Tuesday night set lacked in oomph, it made up for in several moments that somehow only seem like they could have happened at a Brad Paisley show. In what I'm 56 percent sure was a stunt, a crazed fan was "ejected" during "Old Alabama" after climbing down into the dirt to hug Paisley when he left the stage. As the song picked up steam, she was gently lifted by security guards back into the crowd while Paisley laughed the incident off in an "aw shucks" sort of way.
Notable absences in the opening night set were the stage banter and downright good guitar work that made his previous rodeo stops memorable.
Though, I suppose that it is equally plausible that some fried Oreo-fueled Paisleyhead had traveled 120 miles from somewhere like Buna,Texas with an agenda to assault Paisley with a hug the moment he stepped in the dirt.
Either scenario works for me in equally wonderful examples of what sorts of fun can happen at a rodeo concert.
There was also the bizarre, off-key yelp that replaced the word "reality" each time Paisley sang the chorus of "Celebrity." Sing it out loud this way, and it's kind of fun. "When you're a celebrity, it's adios re-al-i-AHHHH!" Every single time that line came up, it would happen. Weird, sure. Though I can't get it out of my head, so I guess it worked?
Or there was the dizzying thematic lyrical rollercoaster ride that made up the majority of the set list. The set that Paisley delivered this year alternated between songs that extolled the virtues of leaving good old-fashioned "Southern Comfort Zones" to explore what life outside of xenophobia has to offer and songs that pandered to an audience brought up on tracks like "Alcohol" and "Mud on the Tires."
Last year's album, Wheelhouse, was well-received by most respectable music critics as an attempt at addressing topics that transcend the country music genre's stereotypes, yet what good are most of those songs when 56,000 fans in Reliant Arena have paid money and traveled for miles just to hear his classics?
Of the 12 songs that made up Tuesday evening's set list, only three of them were from Wheelhouse, and two of those three sounded a lot like Paisley as usual.
I suppose that's what you bargain for when playing to such a large crowd full of fans that just want to see a Brad Paisley show, but I'd be lying if I said it wouldn't have been really cool if Brad Paisley had opened with "Southern Comfort Zones" and then proceeded to treat an audience to a night full of Kris Kristofferson, Michael Murphey and Gram Parsons covers.
Now there were some country artists who knew how to leave the barstool, see the world, then go on to sing about it.
Southern Comfort Zones
Mud on the Tires
This is Country Music
Beat This Summer
I'm Gonna Miss Her