Brad Paisley NRG Stadium March 21, 2015
Saturday was one of those days where, when you looked outside, you might have thought it was never going to stop raining. Life doesn't stop on account of dreary weather, however, and so the rodeo rolled on.
Practically speaking, it meant the halls of NRG Center were packed in a way you don't see very often during the rodeo. Sure, folks pop in to check out the baby animals and maybe test out those fancy massage chairs, but compared to the carnival and the rodeo proper it doesn't quite conjure up the same sense of excitement.
But there people were, huddled up in circles, eating and messing about on their phones, killing time until the stadium opened.
Brad Paisley was in town, and you don't let a little rain keep you from missing him.
The rodeo always has to take a few chances when it comes to putting together a lineup. It's how you keep things from becoming too dusty. And so each year sees a few new names on there, some of whom work out and some don't. And that's good -- variety is the spice and all that.
But it also has its share of constants, artists that are always good for a solid draw and a good show. These artists people will pay to see, even if they've been coming down to Houston in March for 3-plus years. If you've ever seen one of his sets at NRG Stadium, you know that when it comes to these constants Brad Paisley is among the best.
This year did feel a bit different than most. Maybe Paisley just had a fire lit under him from something, but it felt like he had come to Houston to prove something. The show wasn't super-serious or anything, but he seemed to take the stage with a different sort of purpose than times past.
Brad Paisley can play a mean guitar. I mention that because I think, judging by the show, that he really wants you to know that. He seemed extra interested in showing off his guitar skills this year, even if it occasionally made travelling around the dirt field a little tougher. Had he tilted his guitar vertically at any point, I would not have been surprised had he gone in to star power mode.
There was next to no down time in his show. Paisley and his band, for the first half of his set, just went wall-to-wall with the songs, leaving no breathing room or time to banter with the crowd. Songs needed to be played, guitar solos needed to be shredded and there was no time for down time.
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It was a set full of old familiars, the lone new song to the party from his 2014 appearance being the welcome addition of "Crushin' It." Sure, there's nothing wrong with his bread and butter silly songs and ballads, but "Crushin' It" is a much better, upbeat addition to his live show than say "Southern Comfort Zone" or "Celebrity."
All told, there's never really going to be a bad show with a guy who can effortlessly go from the emotion of "Then" to the hilarity of "I'm Gonna Miss Her." There's never going to be a bad rodeo show with the guy who isn't afraid to bring his effortless guitar heroics up close and personal to the crowd.
I can't tell you if there were really more than 75,000 people in the building by the time Paisley and company went into the show-closer "Alcohol," but I know that his name was enough to sell enough tickets to get him back in to the Top 10 list of highest-paid attendance performances.
And rightly so. Paisley deserves his place with the kings of RodeoHouston, even if it took braving the rain to get him there.
Personal Bias: Getting really tired of only hearing "Online" in the summer.
The Crowd: The rodeo counted it as 75,167 strong, including one former President of the United States and his First Lady.
Overheard In the Crowd: "Does that say 'Nut Scratch Fest'?" Yes, yes it did say that.
Random Notebook Dump: Disappointed no one was out at the rodeo on their rain-poncho hustle. He or she could have easily made a killing.
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