Brad Paisley, Randy Houser, Leah Turner, Charlie Worsham, Dee Jay Silver Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion September 6, 2014
Brad Paisley fans don't appreciate how good they've got it. The man has been here three times in the last 14 months and four times in the last three years, each show built around the same core of 12 songs.
This brings up the obvious question: can you burn yourself out on a great song or a great performer?
If you've seen Paisley live since July 2013, Saturday night's show at the Pavilion felt at a minimum familiar, but not exactly the same. Many of the graphics have been updated, the stage has changed and the songs are in a different order, but if you felt a little bit of déjà vu, no one would judge you.
The constant is the showman at the center of it all, who remains rock-solid in his ability to perform and entertain an audience.
There are worse artists to spend a summer night with than Paisley. The man certainly has an appreciation for the great outdoors, and being out in the sun and on the water may be the only thing he loves more than country music.
Which you knew, of course, if you've already seen him live, or listened to ten of his songs oat random on Spotify.
Still, it's a formula that works on a broad scale. At one point, Paisley asked why he couldn't come to town in October when it's less humid, but he knows why he can't just as everyone else in the audience knows why he can't: no one wants to sing about laughing all the way to the river bank right before Halloween. That's just weird.
While this was a familiar show, there were some new things that worked. "Moonshine In the Trunk" and "River Bank" fit in the set better than the songs they replaced. There's a new bit where Brad and Dee Jay Silver have a battle of sorts, where Silver "spins" a famous guitar riff and then Paisley plays it back to him. The punchline is pretty funny if you've spent any time watching animated Disney films with a kid in the past year. It also provides a natural lead in to "Hot For Teacher," which Paisley and his band still crush.
There was also a marriage proposal during "She's Everything," which probably doesn't happen in every market but was still very cute to watch.
Things that didn't work this tour: the digital Carrie Underwood in "Remind Me" looked much better last year, but was still solid enough to temporarily fool at least a few people, so there's that. "American Saturday Night" could stand to use a graphic overall; the Captain America stuff was weird last year and that hasn't changed.
There's also the matter of his new single "The Perfect Storm," which isn't capital-B bad, but its place in the set didn't really work, and the set already has enough singalong-whoas and ballads for a Saturday night.
Story continues on the next page.
Diminishing returns are a hard thing to quantify. There is so much to like about Paisley: his sense of humor, the way he makes everything he does look effortless, his genuine love of country music and all things Southern. Now that everyone has mostly forgotten that "Accidental Racist" is a thing that exists, you really don't want to knock the guy for playing a bunch of songs that people love too many times in the same market.
Yes, the ending bit of stage production to "Water" was silly last year and is still silly this year, but it's a damn good song, ya know?
It's just also easy to wonder how much better the songs might sound if there was a little distance to let the heart grow fonder. Or at least it's easy to wonder until he starts up "Ticks." Then it's better to just go with it.
Personal Bias: Never gonna be a cowboy. Occasionally votes blue.
The Crowd: Hats, boots, sparkly jewelry and at least one person in a regrettable pair of mom-jean short-shorts.
Overheard In the Crowd: "I think there's going to be a lot less confetti tonight," said our Live Nation homie Levi, who also survived 30 Seconds To Mars.
So, How Were the Openers?: Charlie Worsham says that he's going to be back at the Pavilion in a few years to headline the building, and watching him now that doesn't seem farfetched. He already has the fundamentals of putting on a good show, and if you didn't make it out to the Pavilion early to see him, you missed out. Bonus points for a banjo-led cover of "Crazy Train."
The highlight of Leah Turner's set was her and the band walking out to Fall Out Boy's "My Songs Know What You Did In the Dark (Light Em Up)." Her songs are nothing to write home about and she looks like someone cosplaying a country singer. Never trust someone with a sparkly microphone. Randy Houser was there, but other than a cover of "Friends In Low Places" there's nothing to report. When the only person the camera guy can find singing your song sits down midline, well... you can't help but feel that's a visual metaphor for the performance.
As for Dee Jay Silver, I can only assume that he's a hell of a salesman. The gimmick of a country-music dance DJ is interesting as long as you ignore the fact that dudes program music in country bars across the country. It's also only interesting if you're willing to pretend that adding an 808 kick to country songs counts as a remix. That said, his dueling-songs bit with Paisley was cute and even I'll admit they did him dirty by not giving him more volume in between singers; it's hard to get a crowd into a mix when they can't hear the songs. That said, you're not fooling anyone pretending you're scratching, so maybe stop that part.
Random Notebook Dump: No one likes the person who puts his or her bare feet up on the seat in front of them.
ROCKS OFF'S GREATEST HITS
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!