March 19, 2016
Of all the RodeoHouston shows I’ve been to, no one has looked as comfortable performing at NRG Stadium as Brad Paisley. I’m not sure what his early rodeo performances looked like, but his tenth trip to the revolving stage was just the latest in a long line of strong rodeo showings.
Whether he’s onstage singing, on one knee shredding or out in the dirt taking selfies, Paisley looks right at home, right where he belongs. He is completely at ease in the Rodeo environment, and in turn his shows continue, as they have for years now, to come off as effortless. It’s a laid-back kind of greatness you don’t see very often.
It’s not a show you go to to be surprised or to hear deep cuts. Paisley has his hits, and he knows the crowd, whether they’ve seen him ten times or not at all, want to hear them. And they always hit, from the humor of “Ticks” and “I’m Gonna Miss Her” to the big ballads of “She’s Everything” and “Then.” Yeah, “Perfect Storm” is still kind of corny and “Crushin’ It” doesn’t quite crush the way it should, but those are little blips in an otherwise solid set of crowd-pleasers. “Country Nation” was the one new Paisley track this year, and gave him a shot to do some local pandering; even at the Rodeo, Texans cheer for the Aggies and Longhorns and instinctively boo a reference to the Sooners.
Just because you don’t go see Brad Paisley at the Rodeo to be surprised doesn’t mean he can’t pull one on you. For his tenth appearance at the Rodeo, he said he wanted to play a great song written about Houston and the Rodeo, and he and his band went into “Houston (Means I’m One Day Closer to You)” by Larry Gatlin & the Gatlin Brothers. But that wasn’t enough. He cut the song off after a few bars to announce that Larry Gatlin himself was in the building. It was a neat moment; Larry sounded great, and it was neat that on one of the biggest nights of the rodeo, the star of the show didn’t mind sharing the spotlight and the trip out of the stadium in the back of a truck.
The show was everything you want in March from a Brad Paisley show: laughs and a preview of the summer. It’s the type of show that the big final weekend of the rodeo should be built on. That it didn’t make the Top 20 rodeo concert attendance list is a bit of a bummer, but par for the course in 2016. In the end, you don’t need 75,006 people to make a night special. Brad Paisley is enough, but if he wants to bring out some friends, that’s pretty cool too.
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Personal Bias: Even though I only made it out twice this year, I’m a huge fan of going to the rodeo.
The Crowd: Pretty chill, except for one guy near me who, when Paisley announced that Larry Gatlin would be joining him onstage, let out the most marvelous, drunk, joyous “What?”
Overheard In the Crowd: “This is fucking bullshit. We’ve only been here for an hour and I’m already leaving because no one wants to ride any rides with me,” said one lady, around noon, as she stormed back to her vehicle, her friends following behind.
Random Notebook Dump: I’m not saying that rodeo security is bad; it’s just that we brought the 3D mini-figure of me to the rodeo to take some photos and no one asked to check the big bubble-wrapped package in my roommate’s purse. I just think it’s interesting that multiple people looked at that giant blue bubble-wrap brick and thought, “Looks legit.”