Brantley Gilbert Reliant Stadium March 2, 2013
The specter of Honey Boo Boo hovered over Brantley Gilbert Saturday at RodeoHouston. If one single human being apart from the not-so-pint-sized TLC reality star embodies the word "redneckognize," it's the man responsible for the song "Kick It In the Sticks."
It's a land of barbed wire and moonshine whiskey
Park your car before you get it stuck
Go on, grab you a beer
And get on up in the truck
So...yeah. Gilbert tends to make Toby Keith (or Stone Cold Steve Austin, for that matter) sound like James Taylor. But he manages to do so without sounding like a total dick about it, which is no small accomplishment. Just look at Jason Aldean.
Unlike the rather dour Aldean, who has recorded Gilbert's "Dirt Road Anthem" and "My Kinda Party," what saves Gilbert's (red)neck is that he doesn't seem to take himself too seriously. Obviously he enjoys himself in his songs, most of which are chiefly devoted to the trade of raising hell, but onstage Saturday he was chipper and self-effacing.
"There are a lot of y'all out there, and this stage is moving, and it's freaking me out a little bit," he said.
Gilbert also mentioned that his bass player "can throw up at will, and if that happens I apologize." Sadly, the revolving stage remained vomit-free for another evening as Gilbert and his band put it through some vigorous paces with several rockers that distilled a potent blend of Skynyrd, Hank Jr. and AC/DC.
His salute to '90s country, a cover of David Lee Murphy's "Dust On the Bottle," rocked hard in spite of itself, but that's no cardinal sin. "Bending the Rules," as perfect a Saturday-night anthem as you could ask for, also made for a nice little wink at Johnny Paycheck.
The U2ish guitar on "You Don't Know Her" was nice, but otherwise Gilbert's ballads were no great shakes, a little reminicent of Bon Jovi and Staind before Aaron Lewis went country. He's already got so many hell-raisin' songs -- Saturday, add to that the downright belligerent "Read Me My Rights" and "Take It Outside" -- it's easy to understand why Gilbert might not have had enough time to properly explore his more sensitive side yet. For now he may have a set of brass knuckles on his microphone, but his overall good humor puts him right side of the divide between bad boy and douche.
Plus, as far as love songs go, he's already written the side-splitting "G.R.I.T.S.," which of course stands for "girls raised in the South." Saturday he also mentioned that he recently got engaged, so no doubt better ballads will come in time.
Personal Bias: No doubt Gilbert would have beaten me up in high school. I don't hold it against him.
The Crowd: Perhaps a redneck or two. Plenty of G.R.I.T.S.
Overheard in the Crowd: Cigar smoke. Not cigarette or weed smoke, cigar smoke. Odd.
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Mutton Bustin' Report: I'm never too sure exactly when the rodeo concerts start on the weekends -- right before 6, it turns out -- so I missed the mutton bustin' Saturday. Dammit.