21st-Century Country

Brad Paisley

At the Santa Barbara Bowl, Friday, May 19.

Reviewed by Rebecca Howes

A shadow of a tall, lean man in a cowboy hat; the spinning globe illuminated on the giant screen; a booming voice announcing the countdown to the star performer. Complete with pyrotechnics, animation, videos, laser lights, and three giant screens, this was not your typical country concert. Under the stars at the Santa Barbara Bowl last Friday night, Brad Paisley proved that he is anything but typical. It’s a good thing that the Bowl doesn’t have a roof, because it would have been blown off.

Clad in blue jeans, a T-shirt, boots, and a cowboy hat and seeming at home onstage, Paisley immediately captured the audience with “The World,” which was carried by his contagious energy and fast-as-lightning string-picking upon his paisley-decorated guitars. “Mud on the Tires” featured a four-wheeling video that looked more like an Abercrombie & Fitch advertisement, with good-looking women and men playing football in the mud. The women in the audience screamed when the music to “Little Moments” began. With his face projected on the big screens, you could see his long eyelashes and handsome features. Paisley had no trouble showing his softer side and actually came across as more manly for doing so.

Paisley’s famed sense of humor shone through during “I’ll Take You Back,” as the giant screen behind him started showing pictures of Clint Eastwood playing the fiddle in a ballerina costume and Bill Clinton playing a keyboard with a cigar in his mouth. The most touching moment during the evening was when he played “When I Get Where I’m Going,” which was originally a duet with Dolly Parton. As he played it alone brilliantly, images of those who touched our lives before they passed away — such as Johnny Cash, John Ritter, Chet Atkins, John F. Kennedy, Johnny Carson, John Belushi, Ronald Reagan, and John Wayne — were projected on the screens.

Other songs featured Paisley-created animation and lively videos, which — coupled with Paisley’s awesome stage presence — kept the audience enthralled and entertained during the 90-minute set. The fast pace of the concert ensured that the crowd would not have a chance to experience boredom — there was barely enough time to sip an adult beverage between songs. Indeed, the evening matched the name of Brad Paisley’s latest album, Time Well Wasted. Most definitely.

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