Blake Shelton at Reliant Stadium, 3/20/2014
Photos by Nicholas Zalud
Blake Shelton Reliant Stadium March 20, 2014
"We wanna get our swerve on; whatever the hell that means, man."
Huh. So it's like that, Shelton.
Thursday night at RodeoHouston, the 37-year-old Oklahoma-born country star and Voice personality took the stage before one very packed house of 75,054 fans, and it sure was something. What, exactly, I'm not sure.
When he kicked off the show with "All About Tonight," a slower, two-steppin' kind of number, it was apparent that something about him sure does draw in those loyal fans. Sometimes it's just hard to figure out why.
He's a character, for sure. It's easy to see why he gets the kind of media attention he does; he can be self-effacing, which does come off as charismatic at times. Right up until he changes the words to "Some Beach," his song about longing for the sandy shores of, well, some beach, into "some biatch" toward the close of his second song.
While that "some biatch" bit drew excited screams from the audience, it only garnered an eye-roll from this biatch. Cute attempt, but perhaps a bit misguided.
Shelton has gotten quite good at drawing in those massive crowds, though. When I looked around the stadium, nearly every seat was full. That's an impressive draw considering Jason Aldean, whom I'd consider to have equal status (minus all Shelton's exposure from The Voice), had noticeably more gaps in the rows. Even the press box, which has been somewhat of a ghost town this season, was full of screaming fans. I just don't get it...but they do.
And to be fair, Shelton deserves a little credit for understanding his fans. He had them screaming en masse as he yelled, "I love you, Houston!" repeatedly. It takes a master of the craft to truly "get" his or her audience, and Shelton does seem to grasp that part. Yet there's still something essential missing from his performance.
That became evident during the show's second half, which was heavy-handed with forlorn love songs. As he sang, gripping the mike and spitting out the words, it became apparent that the missing element of his performance was the emotion that turns a sad country song into a heartbroken hymn. Sure, he plays some really sad, sappy tunes -- take "The More I Drink" or "Drink On It," for example -- but where that raw, evident emotion should be, it just isn't. He's there, and he's singing, but he sure ain't hurtin' like those songs are.
Review continues on the next page.
That lack of emotion makes it all feel a bit disingenuous. Those songs are the bread and butter of country music, but something about Shelton just doesn't sit well with them.
Perhaps it's because he's really not heartbroken. In fact, he seems very much enamored with his wife, Miranda Lambert, who he pulled onstage during "Home" as the better half to his duet. The crowd went absolutely nuts; this is the Shelton they want to see -- the funny country guy with the pretty country wife -- and he gave it to them. They very much approved.
To be fair, there were some cuter points to the show, that duet included. He riffed on Adam Levine and Maroon 5 -- his arch-nemesis from The Voice -- and he sang his aight new radio hit, "Doin' What She Likes," right before he pulled Lambert onstage. He's charismatic when he stops with the overwrought bro-country business, and gets back to those days when he played out in the "Hideaway, Hideout, or whatever," (his words, not mine).
And he really does seem to do what she -- and the crowd -- like. It's just not something that floats my country boat. At least there was no hick-hop on "Boys Round Here." There's always next year, though.
Personal Bias: Nope. Just can't with the word "biatch." It is the literal worst.
The Crowd: The entire city of Houston and the outlying 'burbs. Dear Lord, there was a crushing amount of folks in that stadium.
Overheard In the Crowd: "WOOOOOOOOHOOOOOOOOOO!" Damn, ladies. I'm not sure if you had to work tomorrow, but if you did, I tip my hat to you. That's some hardcore partying for a Thursday.
Random Notebook Dump: My friend in the elevator (yes, I've made friends at this point) really liked Shelton, to the point where she categorized him as the best show so far. She didn't even budge when I reminded her of Luke Bryan's ass. Go figure.
ROCKS OFF'S GREATEST HITS
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.