Monday, January 23, 2012

Jason Aldean with Luke Bryan and Lauren Alaina in Fayetteville, NC

Saturday January 21st, Crown Center, Fayetteville, NC

On Saturday night my husband and I drove an hour and a half through the rain to see Jason Aldean and Luke Bryan in Fayetteville. I realize this sounds a bit crazy since we get so many concerts in Raleigh, but I think it's worth driving to Fayetteville and we're going to do so more often. The Crown Center is a smaller indoor coliseum. One can see the performer without having to rely on video screens from any seat 100 level level of bleachers. Everything is also cheaper there than in Raleigh. Parking is free, a 24 oz beer is $8, a draft beer is only $6, and most of the food is under $5.  Tickets for better seats also tend to be less expensive than in Raleigh. The fact that it required us to pay an additional $20 for a babysitter's time is rather besides the point. I'd rather help out a college student than spend the same money on parking, overpriced domestic light beer, and nachos.

Waiting for Aldean to come on stage from the back of Crown Coliseum.
This was taken with an iphone. Objects are closer than they appear.

We arrived in time to hear Lauren Alaina's very short but energetic set. Even though it's a cheesy song, I teared up a bit during "Like My Mother Does".  The woman in front of me was bawling and my tear ducts involuntarily leaked sympathetically. Alaina did a cover of U2's "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" that she mashed-up to one of her songs but it wasn't memorable enough for me to even remember what song she sang. Her notable contribution to the tour is that she joins Aldean on stage and sings Kelly Clarkson's part in "Don't You Wanna Stay". After having seen a handful of concerts where the headliner sings with a projection of some sort, this is a welcome duet solution. Alaina has a strong enough voice to stand in Clarkson's shoes for a live performance of the duet. I doubt anyone in the audience was disappointed that Clarkson's digital image was left on the truck.

Luke Bryan opened with what my husband thinks is the stupidest song in country music, "Rain is a Good Thing". I'll argue that "Country Girl Shake it for Me" makes "Rain is a Good Thing" sound like an excerpt from Talmud. Luke Bryan really does have some idiotic lyrics. "Sittin' here, waitin' on a deer, drinkin' beer, and wasting bullets." "Girl, you make my Speakers go Boom Boom".  I happen to like "Do I", "All My Friends Say" and his new song "I Don't Want the Night to End", not that any of the lyrics to these songs are any better.  There is a grand canyon between what I think of Luke Byran's music, and my appreciation of him as a performer. The three times I've seen him live, he's been thoroughly entertaining. He's sexy. He wiggles his hips around, and all the ladies holler and giggle. He runs and skips all over the stage but also banters at the audience of 10,000 like it's an amusing intimate conversation. He's the perfect contrast to Aldean.  Jason Aldean is a serious guy. He's in the business of country rock, and he delivers his services with little fanfare. Aldean rarely talks and he never dances. The fact that they're such good friends and enjoy touring together benefits both of them.

Jason Aldean played radio hit after radio hit and the audience was on their feet, bouncing around, waving their hands in the air, and singing for the entire performance. He opened with "Johnny Cash" and closed with "Dirt Road Anthem" and "Hicktown".  The one song that many in the audience didn't yet know is "Fly Over States", the last single he'll release from the My Kinda Party album. I am so glad that he's chosen to release "Fly Over States" as it's one of my two favorite songs from the album. Sadly, the song I think is the most interesting on My Kinda Party, "Church Pew or Bar Stool" will probably slip into obscurity. (click to hear "Fly Over States")

About halfway through Aldean's set, Bryan reappeared and the two of them did three or four acoustic songs on a platform in the back of the auditorium. It's not unusual for an artist to move onto a platform in the center of a performance space for a quiet breather. Both Brad Paisley and Tailor Swift do this at every concert. What I thought was special, if I dare use that word to describe part of a big commercial concert, was the combination of Aldean and Bryan, doing something very different than what we're used to seeing them do, an informal acoustic set. I'm sure it was mostly scripted, but the two musicians obviously trust one another enough to allow for moments of improvisation and their friendship is palpable.

Another bad iphone photo, this one of Bryan and Aldean during their acoustic set.
They were perhaps 40 feet in front of us.

 There was a big contrast between this Aldean/Bryan concert and the one I saw two years ago at the same venue. Two years ago the audience sat through most of the songs, waiting for the few familiar hits. The family sitting next to me had clearly attended the show just to hear "Big Green Tractor", as did my then six year old daughter. Both musicians have enjoyed a huge amount of success in the last two years. They've gone from being relatively new stars to enormous established stars. I'll be interested to see if they continue to tour together every few years, or if they will decide they need to separate their tours to keep audience interest. My opinion is if they both continue to record well received new music, and they both significantly change up their setlists and shtick from year to year, they could continue to reap the benefits of their terrific chemistry indefinately.

Hubby wore a smile and a plaid shirt as per my request. There was a whole lot of plaid at this concert.