No matter what musical flights of fancy RodeoHouston toys with during its nightly concert series, it’s been tradition that the final night of the rodeo get back to basics.
The last round-up is often performed by an artist who either defines country music, represents the greatness of Texas… or some combination of both. Some of the “by-the-book” names that have taken a final bow in the last decade include George Strait, Clay Walker and Alabama.
But in a year that RodeoHouston decided to mess with past etiquette by inviting bad boy Kid Rock, blood- and fire-spitting hard rock icons KISS and, of course, Janet Jackson’s return to Reliant Stadium following her Super Bowl halftime bosom peek-a-boo seven years ago, “the book” has been thrown out the window this year.
Jason Aldean’s 14 song, one-hour performance on Sunday to close RodeoHouston was everything that the finale usually isn’t. He’s not a living legend. He’s not from Texas and he didn’t serve up country with an acknowledged reverence for Hank Williams and George Jones.
Truth be told, Georgia native Aldean is only six years into a recording career that has found a home on country radio, but is far from traditional. After watching his band wield electric guitars like weapons and display more tattoos than a biker gang while Aldean rapped and cursed under a white cowboy hat, this may be the most untraditional final in seven decades of rodeo concerts in Houston.
After opening with the amplified attitude, “Tattoos on This Town,” from his most recent album, My Kinda Party, Aldean focused on the country hits that earned him "last night" honors at RodeoHouston. As he wove in-and-out of Top 10 country singles he seemed intent going country as a means to show just how easily he can break out of the Nashville formula.
“Amarillo Sky” and “Big Green Tractor” are past favorites that cater to the two-steppin’ crowd (and show an unnatural affection for John Deere farming machinery) while”Why” and his Kelly Clarkson duet (appearing via recorded video) and biggest single, “Don’t You Wanna Stay,” are the kind of broken-relationship ballads that are the soundtrack for rural romance and heartbreak.
But just when it seems like Aldean had gone completely country, he lowered the Hollywood-with-a-touch-of-twang-hammer of “Crazy Town.” “Johnny Cash” and a revamped version of Aldean’s 2005 debut single, 'Hick Town,” rocked as hard as any leather clad hair tosser.
It was Aldean’s rap on new single, “Dirt Road Anthem,” that truly flipped the script.
Spitting slang and risqué notions in rhyme earned him the "bad boy" title of this rodeo. Even though he couched it in the string-heavy backing of his country band, this was definitely not music built for the Grand Ole Opry. It will be interesting to note how the rodeo concert committee (which relish family-friendly acts, especially on Sunday) responds.
It’s possible this could be the last invite Jason Aldean gets from RodeoHouston to play its final concert… or any concert.
Now, that’s a rock n' roll exit!