Brad Paisley is an easy performer to like. His music is a healthy blend of both country and rock, and his songs contain both honesty and passion.
Couple that with a little fiddle and a little slide guitar, serve it up with a large dose of stadium-ready rock bravado, and you’ve got a Brad Paisley concert in a nut shell. Because his music is so thoroughly catchy, he’s the sort of musician that could be considered a custom fit for a gig as large as the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.
In fact, what struck me the most about Saturday night's concert on the penultimate day of the Rodeo was not only Paisley’s music, but his confidence as a performer. The size of Reliant Stadium didn’t seem to intimidate Paisley one bit. While the rodeo lights went out and fireworks began to fire up, Paisley slyly made his way to the stage to launch into “Camouflage” from his most recent album This Is Country Music, and he didn’t stop to take a break until the fourth song of the set.
The size of Reliant Stadium didn’t seem to intimidate Paisley one bit.
To reinforce the point of the “Camouflage,” Paisley came out wearing a camo T-shirt, but he went through a slight costume change later as a fan threw him bright green shamrock beads to wear in the spirit of the St. Patrick’s Day show.
After many of Paisley’s songs, a little lip service to the Houston crowd would elicit much applause. “It’s great to be in the largest state in America!,” Paisley remarked after “Another Saturday Night,” quickly correcting himself for the geographic flub.
I mean really, what native Texan hasn’t at one point wished that Alaska didn’t hold that coveted geographic title?
As if the crowd-pleasing banter about Texas, bull riding versus baseball (he gave bull riding the edge, though I disagree), and our troops wasn’t enough, Paisley also treated the Houston crowd to a few local favorites from the annals of Texas country. The Waylon Jennings classic, “Good Hearted Woman,” segued perfectly into one of Paisley’s best-known songs, the playfully defiant “I’m Still A Guy” from 2007 album 5th Gear.
An even bigger treat, though, came when Paisley sang a couple of verses from “Deep In The Heart Of Texas” before launching into a rollicking tribute to country music, aptly titled “This Is Country Music.”
One thing that I wasn’t prepared for, but was pleasantly surprised to learn, was how talented of a guitar player Paisley really is. It’s hard to notice anything but his distinct voice and wry lyrics when listening to a Brad Paisley album, but his playing really shines in a live setting.
After many of Paisley’s songs, a little lip service to the Houston crowd would elicit much applause.
It wasn’t just the sound of his guitar that filled the stadium during solos, but also Paisley himself. He would fill the stadium floor by leaving the stage to greet fans near the ground level railing during every guitar solo. Late in the set, he used what looked like a fan’s beer bottle as a slide for his guitar, and then threw it back into the crowd near the railing.
I later learned that it was possibly a microphone that he used for this stunt, and I’m still scratching my head as to which scenario is more "rock and roll."
Saturday’s show could have easily been an hour and a half country-rock fest (and the majority of the show was heavy on the rock and roll), but Paisley sprinkled his set with just the right amount of material for those attending the show with their significant others. Numbers such as “She’s Everything,” and “Then,” from 2005’s Time Well Wasted and 2010’s American Saturday Night, respectively, added a sentimental backdrop to what seemed to be a stadium full of people that know the value of a good old-fashioned lovesick sing-a-long.
These earnest on-stage moments aside, Paisley seemed to be having so much fun off the stage that he probably could have played the entire show near the fans behind the concourse railing. During the penultimate song, “Old Alabama,” and after leaving the stage for what seemed like the 10th time, he set up a mic stand and practically finished the show there in the dirt, hundreds of feet away from his band.
From there, the show’s closer, “Alcohol,” took on an appropriate St. Patty’s Day tone by becoming a drunken chorus lead by Paisley and his expressive guitar playing.
If you missed Paisley this time around, don’t fret. He's a RodeoHouston veteran and I would be very surprised if he didn’t get invited back next year. His brand of country music is just as much a part of the Rodeo spirit as Mutton Bustin’ (which Paisley tweeted about and joked about participating in), deep-fried Oreos, and that once-a-year pair of boots I caught many urban cowboys wearing at Reliant on Saturday.
It’s hard to believe that this year’s Rodeo is almost over.