By Chrissy Mauck
|Photo by Ben Enos.|
Decked out in a black T-shirt with Los Angeles emblazoned across the front, blue jeans and a Stetson, country superstar Paisley proudly pronounced early-on in his Saturday night set at the Hollywood Bowl that “the rednecks have invaded Hollywood.”
And so they had. Cowboy boots, cowboy hats and country music lovers were out in full force at the Bowl for the final stop of Paisley’s nationwide Virtual Reality Tour. Apparently, it was his first-ever appearance at the landmark venue, and he made it a memorable one with a nearly two-hour run that showcased his immense talents both as a songwriter and guitarist, and the cheeky humor and quick wit that have made him one of country music’s most beloved artists.
Paisley kicked off the show with a trio of older hits — “The World,” an arena rock-style anthem in “Welcome to the Future” and the comedic song “Ticks” — before diving into the title track of latest album This is Country Music. The sweeping tune plays out like a love letter to his genre as Paisley sings about cancer, tractors and Jesus while also paying tribute to songs by his country’s icons such as Merle Haggard, John Denver, Johnny Cash and Conway Twitty.
Paisley then busted out his 1968 Fender Pink Paisley Telecaster for the mid-tempo hit tune “Waitin’ on a Woman,” while the official music video featuring the late Andy Griffith played on a giant video board behind him. Paisley finished the song standing on a raised bridge at the back of the stage, tipping his hat up to the actor behind him just before the words “in loving memory of our friend Andy Griffith” appeared.
It was a somber and touching moment.
But there was plenty of his wry humor to go around too.
The twanged-out virtuoso guitarist paused during “I’m Still a Guy” to discuss “the feminization of the modern man.” After defining this as facials, pedicures, manicures and even back waxes, Paisley delivered a political jibe.
“Soon, there’ll be whole binders full of men,” he said, mocking Mitt Romney’s now-viral remark from last week’s presidential debate. Before eventually kicking back into the song, he deadpanned, “I’m Brad Paisley, and I approved this message.”
The entertainment capital of the world also provided the perfect audience to serve up his satirical number “Celebrity.” Prior to launching into the tune, which featured opening act Scott McCreery, Paisley referenced a few over-the-top celebrity moves such as Kim Kardashian’s short marriage, Randy Travis’ DUI, Kristen Stewart’s affair and even Justin Bieber’s puking incident before concluding, “Famous people are idiots. We are!”
Paisley may enjoy mega celebrity status, but he also embraces humility. He went out of his way to engage the audience throughout the show, leaping down into the first few rows stage left during “Online” for some guitar shredding, and then later, even making his way halfway up the Bowl’s incline to a secondary stage.
“How’s everybody in the drinking section?” asked Paisley before explaining that as a kid growing up in West Virginia he’d never gotten any closer to the stage than they were.
From his secondary perch, Paisley strummed his acoustic guitar as he performed a heartfelt message to his 17-year old self with “Letter to Me.”
His saddest song of the night came soon after with “Whiskey Lullaby,” accompanied by opening act The Band Perry. Singer Kimberly Perry served as Paisley’s duet partner for the ballad about a man who drank himself to death.
Keeping with the tour’s “virtual” theme, a few songs later Paisley was joined onstage by a Carrie Underwood hologram that had those up in the “drinking section” convinced she had actually put in an appearance. Together, the co-hosts of the upcoming CMAs sang their hit duet, “Remind Me.” Judging by the number of couples slow-dancing in the garden box section, the song worked its magic in rekindling romance.
Paisley also made room in the set for ballad “She’s Everything.” The chart topper proved to be a crowd favorite, albeit a bit of a strange sight with the typical Tele-player delivering plaintive solos on a vintage ‘60s Stratocaster. Somewhere on YouTube, there’s likely fan footage of this number, as midway through the song, Paisley borrowed an audience member’s iPhone 4S to make a video.
|As winners of our Fender/Brad Paisley Flyaway, Christine Gingras and Alexandra Maroni of Pittsfield, Mass. got to enjoy the concert and meet Paisley afterwards. They also got their new Black Paisley Tele autographed by the country artist.|
After panning the camera around his guitar, the audience and singing a few lines, he quipped, “Your battery just died. You should have gotten the (iPhone) 5. They say it lasts like 20 percent longer.”
The crafty-songwriter later demonstrated some true tech chops as a way of introducing his live band, a tight lineup that he’s been recording and touring with for the last 13 years. A Star Wars/Star Trek cartoon animation by Mr. Paisley himself appeared on the video board while the band provided an instrumental score.
He finished his initial set with a pair of upbeat cuts off This is Country Music with “Old Alabama” and “Water,” which concluded with Paisley jumping into a virtual pool and swimming offstage.
A few minutes later, he re-emerged for his encore in a fresh South Park T-shirt and performed the fitting “American Saturday Night” and “Alcohol.” Both opening acts and presumably his entire crew joined Paisley onstage to toast the tour’s closing number, and during an extended bit of guitar mastery, he motioned for one of them to hand him a beer bottle. Paisley then let loose with an impressive 45-second bottleneck guitar solo in one of the show’s many unforgettable moments.
While the U.S. tour might be a wrap, his newest single “Southern Comfort Zone” from an album due out sometime next year indicates that he’ll be back before long.
And I miss my Tennessee home
But I can see the ways that I’ve grown
And I can’t see this world unless I go
Outside my Southern Comfort Zone
But I’ve since become a drifter
And I just can’t wait to pack
Cause I know the road I leave on
It will always bring me back
Hollywood Bowl Setlist:
Welcome to the Future
This Is Country Music
Waitin’ on a Woman
Celebrity (Scott McCreery)
I’m Still a Guy (incl. Good Hearted Woman)
Southern Comfort Zone
Letter to Me
Mud on the Tires
Whiskey Lullaby (inc. If I Die Young)
I’m Gonna Miss Her
American Saturday Night