RodeoHouston's Penultimate Night Belongs to the Dependable Brad Paisley

Would you let this man search you for ticks?
Would you let this man search you for ticks?
Photo by Jack Gorman
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Brad Paisley
NRG Stadium
March 16, 2K19

It's a real testament to his likeability as a human that we as a society have largely choose to pretend that Brad Paisley's “Accidental Racist” isn't a thing that exists. Try to imagine the social media firestorm that would erupt if he tried to release that song today; we might not hit #cancelbradpaisley levels of social media outrage, but there would be plenty of jokes and think pieces and it would not be good for Mr. Paisley. But it was a thing he survived, mostly because it was a song that didn't get a lot of popular attention; it helps that he has a lot of goodwill.

Which is to say it's really no surprise that of the country performers on this year's RodeoHouston lineup, he came in second only behind Kane Brown in terms of tickets sold (fourth overall when you add in Los Tigres Del Norte and Cardi B). Sure, a Saturday Spring Break slot doesn't hurt, but after 12 trips to Houston to play the big stage, people know what they're getting when they buy a ticket to Brad Paisley, and they've decided that they like what he's selling.

And what they got was pretty much what was expected, in perhaps its most pure form. Feeling almost like a mixtape at times with the way he clipped certain songs to try and jam as many songs into the set as possible, this was Brad Paisley: The Hits brought to life, and not just sonically. There were the old favorite RodeoHouston bits as well, like doing guitar solos on the dirt floor, handshakes and selfies with the crowd, and going through one concert goer's phone photo album. If you've seen him at all in the last five or so years, this should was the concert equivalent of your favorite comfort dish; what it lacks in surprise it makes up for that warm, familiar glow it fills you with.

It's why it's hard to knock him for continuing to play “I'm Still a Guy” even though it's not a song that has aged particularly well (even Brad has to know self-care is a good thing at this point); what's fared better is “American Saturday Night” and it's acknowledgment that part of what makes this country great is what everyone contributes to the melting pot, a message that rings just a bit truer here in Houston. That message may not be delivered in the most eloquent of fashions, but his heart, as it almost always seems to be, is in the right place.

I know the year will come along where his name isn't on the RodeoHouston lineup, because one assumes on a long enough timeline he'll want to take a break eventually, and that day will be a sad one. No performer is irreplaceable, but in Brad Paisley, there is this unique situation where this major performer comes to town year in and year out around the same time and puts on this really good performance that isn't trying to be anything more than a good night at the Rodeo. I know right now I'm probably a year away from seeing Brad Paisley again, and there's comfort in that kind of consistency in these chaotic modern times. It's not the type of thing someone writes a country song about, but maybe he should; at least with “Bucked Off”, the only new addition to this year's set, he finally has a rodeo song to call his own.

Personal Bias: The subtext in that last paragraph is that while I think Luke Bryan is a good performer, I do think he tries too hard to be “serious” and Paisley has a much better track record of consistently good songs.

The Crowd: 74,929, which I think we'll all agree is pretty good.

Mutton Bustin' Update, Championship Edition: The real reason I always hope someone I like gets booked for the final night of RodeoHouston events is so that I get to see the best of the best mutton busters go head to head. Last night did not disappoint, and although it could have gone either way, I thought it was rad as hell a young girl is the best mutton buster in Houston.

Random Notebook Dump: Brad Paisley mentioned George Strait by name or song title in at least three different songs last night, setting up the grand finale on Sunday about as well as you could.

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