Home > Uncategorized > Brad Paisley: This Is Country Music . . .

Brad Paisley: This Is Country Music . . .

Brad Paisley performs an extended set for a sold-out crowd at the South Okanagan Events Centre in Penticton last Thursday. I was fortunate to be standing front row for the 2 1/2-hour performance and would rank it among the all-time best concerts I've attended.

Brad Paisley performed an extended set for a sold-out crowd at the South Okanagan Events Centre in Penticton last Thursday. I was fortunate to be standing front row for the 2 1/2-hour performance and would rank it among the all-time best concerts I’ve attended.

Hockey season is right around the corner, but these are still the dog days of summer in which puck fanatics must find other forms of entertainment.

For me, this off-season has been largely about music, attending several live shows and festivals.

Let it be known that I’m not musically, nor mechanically, inclined. Leaving the latter laughing matter for another day, when it comes to music, I’m a big fan of listening to many genres — from country to dubstep, and everything in between. There’s a few musicians in my family tree, but rest assured, I’m not one of them. I grew up enjoying an uncle-and-aunt tandem that sang and played acoustic guitar together; a cousin currently writes and performs original material; and even my younger sister could strum a chord or two back in the day . . . to such classics as Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.

I’ve always been a bit jealous or envious of their talents, myself being totally tone deaf and unable to keep a beat for the life of me. Despite a few futile attempts over the last 28-plus years, I’ve never been able to play any instruments — I was politely asked to drop the band program from my high school class list to the tune of “this just isn’t for you”, and my college roommate gave me a second chance on the drums to no avail and even worse reviews, something along the lines of  “sorry man, you suck real bad”.

I thought I had finally caught my musical break with the sudden popularity of Guitar Hero and Rock Band video games — for which I was average at best — but sadly just as I was mastering those easy-to-medium riffs, that fad died off and I was back to playing the good ol’ air guitar.

My karaoke, um, performances have been equally forgettable, regardless my level of intoxication upon taking the stage. Liquid courage has little to no impact on my all-over-the-map atrocious vocals, and my singing has always been best confined to shower solos or the occasional outburst while travelling, providing the vehicle stereo is able to drown me out.

Bare with me, I’m almost done with the self-deprecation, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t discuss my dancing skills — or lack thereof. When it comes to club tracks or dare I say dirty beats, I am utterly clueless to the proper, acceptable bodily movements. Think Ricky Bobby from Talladega Nights and the whole “what do I do with my hands” conundrum and apply that logic to your local dance floor. I like to think I’m capable of two-stepping from time to time — aided, again, by bottle bravery — but, the reality is, I was blessed with two left feet and can’t hold my own in that department either.

Yet, for some strange reason, I genuinely enjoy most types of music. My first love was classic rock and ’80s metal, inspired by my late uncle who introduced me to the likes of AC/DC, KISS, Guns N Roses and Motley Crue. My cassette Walkman could often be heard blaring those bands throughout my pre-teen years on the school bus, at recess and even at the supper table.

Then, in junior high, I softened to inexplicably liking country music. Well, I guess there was good reason for my change of heart, with my dad taking my aforementioned younger sister and I to our first Big Valley Jamboree in Camrose in I believe it was 1995. I was only turning 11 years old back then, but I was almost instantly converted and my upgraded Discman soon reflected that. BVJ became an annual family holiday through high school and I continued attending in college and made it a priority even upon entering the workforce. Fortunately, as a member of the media, I was able to secure press passes and free tickets for a few years prior to moving to Kelowna immediately following BVJ in 2008.

It was a good run of more than a decade where I didn’t miss a BVJ — rain or shine, or even snow — and I got to see the who’s who of country music, including headliners Alan Jackson, Brad Paisley, Toby Keith, Tim McGraw, Keith Urban, Dierks Bentley, Blake Shelton, Joe Nichols, Gary Allan and Trace Adkins. That’s not to discriminate, as I also saw great female acts such as Carrie Underwood, Sugarland, Reba, Martina McBride, Michelle Wright, Terri Clark, Sara Evans, Jo Dee Messina and LeAnn Rimes. There were several bands worth the price of admission too, with Brooks & Dunn, Big & Rich, Lonestar, Blackhawk, Diamond Rio and Montgomery Gentry among them. For the more nostalgic fans, Alabama, Randy Travis, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Sawyer Brown, Billy Ray Cyrus (yes, Miley’s old man), Dwight Yoakam, Travis Tritt, John Michael Montgomery, Clay Walker, Clint Black and Joe Diffie all entertained the masses in Camrose as well. And there was never a shortage of Canadian talent spread over the three-day showcase, with Emerson Drive, Doc Walker, Paul Brandt, Aaron Pritchett, Corb Lund, Jason McCoy and Adam Gregory making multiple appearances from the beer gardens to the main stage.

In recent years, distance and work commitments have prevented me from making it back to BVJ and I’ve begrudgingly missed out on Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan, Rascal Flatts, Rodney Atkins and Miranda Lambert, among many others.

Making things worse, country music isn’t as popular in the Okanagan as the Prairies, or at least not with the friend group I latched onto. They were more into the dirty beats — house, dubstep, trance and electronic — all genres that didn’t really exist or appeal to the majority of my friends back home. So my musical interests became more diverse, not by choice at first, but soon I was attending shows ranging from Deadmau5 in Waterfront Park to Lady Gaga at Flashbacks. Not to mention downloading all their chart-toppers to my shiny new iPod in order to fit in.

Consider it a culture shock but, before long, my BVJ weekend had been replaced by the local Center of Gravity festival, which has featured headliners such as Steve Aoki, Calvin Harris, Morgan Page, Knife Party, Kaskade and Tiesto over the last few years. COG, as its known by acronym, offers a vastly different experience, environment and scenery for which I’m still adapting to within my comfort zone.

Testing my extreme limits, I travelled to Las Vegas this June for the Electric Daisy Carnival, joining more than 300,000 concert-goers for the epic and euphoric EDC. There, I was mesmerized by wild lighting displays and even wilder outfits, all the while listening to the world’s best DJs, including Avicii, Afrojack, Benny Benassi, Wolfgang Gartner, Hardwell, Krewella and Above & Beyond amongst literally hundreds of acts.

As cool and crazy as EDC was, the fact remains I’ll always be a country boy at heart — like the saying goes “you can take the boy out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the boy”.

Unfortunately, there aren’t many country shows around here, not since Merritt Mountain Music Festival was scrapped in 2010, although Penticton has been bringing in a few more as of late to sell-out audiences.

I was super stoked for Eric Church’s show in February, being my first country concert since moving to B.C. and one of my favourite artists who I had yet to see live. I underestimated his popularity around these parts and missed the boat on the pre-sale tickets that claimed all the standing room and floor seating. I still scored decent seats off to the right side of the stage about halfway down the bowl, but the entire experience left a lot to be desired. I’m not sure if my expectations were just too high, or if I was comparing Church to past acts that outperformed him, or if I just wasn’t in the mood for whatever reason that night. It was a decent show, but I wasn’t blown away and he lost me a bit in the middle portion when he played a big block of little-known songs from his latest album that had yet to hit the airwaves up here. Some of those tracks are gaining traction now and perhaps I just didn’t appreciate them at the time, but Church failed to crack my all-time top 10.

Then, just last week on a spur-of-the-moment, last-minute decision, I made plans to attend Paisley’s show in Penticton providing I could still find tickets. Stubhub turned up dry but to my surprise there were plenty for the picking on Castanet and Kijiji, so I called around and lucked out with two standing-room tickets for face value ($125 each). Let me preface this portion by simply saying: It was well worth it.

The morning of the concert, I learned via Twitter that one of the opening acts, Chris Young, who I was lukewarm on seeing, had been hospitalized with a leg infection and Paisley would be playing an extended set. Having previously saw Paisley at BVJ in 2004, I knew we were in for a treat, considering how good he was back then and how many stellar albums he has put out since.

We showed up just as his other opener Kristen Kelly was wrapping up, with a fun cover of The Eagles’ Heartache Tonight that energized the crowd prior to a brief break for Paisley’s stage setup. We found our way to standing room — a surprisingly small and intimate section surrounding the stage — and settled into the very left front row, sipping our first drink in anticipation of the night to come.

Paisley did not disappoint, kicking things off with Southern Comfort Zone and altering the lyrics to include Penticton and Canadian references. He followed it up with Mud On The Tires and the place went into a frenzy on what was a rainy Thursday night.

Hit after hit, Paisley kept them coming in an adrenaline-pumping performance that lasted upwards of 2 1/2 hours before winding down with Water. In between, he belted out dozens of songs past, present and future, and even gave his band a break to bust out some slower ballads such as She’s Everything and Then. But he mixed the set-list to perfection and maintained the party vibes throughout, even performing a cover of Van Halen’s Hot For Teacher before transitioning seamlessly into Old Alabama.

The only lowlight, if there was one, had to be the lacklustre “light show” that accompanied his current smash single Beat This Summer. Fans were encouraged by the local radio station and through social media to download a cellphone app that would play along to the tour’s title track, but it turned out to be little more than a flash strobe alternating solid colours. Some of the fans seemed impressed but having been to EDC, I found the crossover to be comical in comparison. But by no means did it diminish the show’s overall greatness, and the live version of Beat This Summer from a vocal standpoint was among the highlights.

Paisley played a handful of other songs from his new album, Wheelhouse, and it definitely sounded like a few of them will be climbing the charts in the coming months. My personal favourite was Outstanding In Our Field, and it actually reminded me of the time I heard Pritchett’s Hold My Beer the summer prior to it being released as a single. I called that hit well in advance of it going viral in 2006 and I’m confident in proclaiming the same for Outstanding In Our Field — YouTube it, if you haven’t already.

When Paisley finally put the finishing touches on, I’m fairly certain everybody went home satisfied and feeling as though they got their money’s worth. We certainly did, even if we might have missed his Alcohol encore and he didn’t have time to play several other hits such as Ticks, The World, Me Neither, We Danced and He Didn’t Have To Be.

All in all, this Paisley show undoubtedly ranks among my top 10 and might even be No. 1 when taking into account the standing-room view and my hot date — the one and only, Sarah, who doubled as fabulous photographer, providing us with the following slideshow. Enjoy!

Paisley Singing 4

Yes, we were that close, an arms reach away from his mic stand on the left side of the stage.

Paisley Singing 7

He’s sang most of these songs a million times, but you can tell he’s passionate about them all and pours his heart into each one.

Paisley Singing 8

Like I said…pours his heart into each one!

Paisley Guitar

And the man can really play guitar too, a quality that is often overshadowed by how great his singing is at live shows. He really doesn’t skip a beat from what you hear on his records, if anything he takes it up another notch.

Paisley Singing

He used a half-dozen different guitars and rarely put the instrument down, but he did so briefly during Mud On The Tires which struck a chord with the crowd on what was a rainy evening with puddles forming in the parking lot prior to his show.

Paisley Singing 10

As much as I chirped his “light show” during Beat This Summer, the stage lighting was solid overall and made for some neat photo opportunities as evidenced here.

Paisley Guitar 5

Paisley played to the crowd throughout and definitely explored his space on the stage. Here he is in the centre of the stage and as you can see my “arms length” comment was no exaggeration.

Paisley Guitar 6

Here he ventured out to a secondary island stage surrounded by very appreciative fans.

Paisley Screen Close Up 2

Here’s another nice shot showcasing the big screen that backed his stage, with Paisley off to the right singing This Is Country Music (I think).

Paisley Guitar 2

He even had a raised portion of the stage that he performed the occasional guitar solo from as seen here.

Paisley Stunt Double

His didn’t incorporate a ton of props but this “stunt double” made a token appearance during Celebrity.Of course, Sarah also turned the camera on herself a time or two, including this cute pic prior to departure. She totally pulls off the cowgirl look, right down to the beer in hand!Of course, Sarah also turned the camera on herself a time or two, including this cute pic prior to departure. She totally pulls off the cowgirl look, right down to the beer in hand!I took a picture of myself too while Sarah was putting on her finishing touches. Mine turned out a little less graceful in this classic "douche mirror" shot.I took a picture of myself too while Sarah was putting on her finishing touches. Mine turned out a little less graceful in this classic “douche mirror” shot.Sarah snapped this keeper on the drive there, quite possibly looking better than ever (in my not so humble opinion).Sarah snapped this keeper on the drive there, quite possibly looking better than ever (in my not so humble opinion).When she wasn't busy capturing Brad's best moments, Sarah managed to catch me getting into the act and clearly enjoying myself. What a great time it was and mostly thanks to her!When she wasn’t busy capturing Brad’s best moments, Sarah managed to catch me getting into the act and clearly enjoying myself. What a great time it was and mostly thanks to her!

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