Thank God I'm a Country Boy

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Thank God I'm a Country Boy

by JasonBryan / Jul 28, 2015 / 0 comments
Date: 
Saturday, 25 July 2015

Kenny Chesney’s Big Revival Tour featuring Jason Aldean, Brantley Gilbert, Cole Swindell, and Old Dominion rolled into the Rose Bowl and rocked it. Country music fans are devoted, yet rarely do they get a non-festival ticket featuring five bands with songs on the charts. Old Dominion started the day off, and of all the countless concerts I’ve been to, it was the first time I’d seen an opening act use the whole stage. The stage had a giant T-shaped platform protruding out into the crowd. It’s not uncommon for bigger bands at bigger venues to have additional staging, but its use is usually reserved for the headliner. Not today.
Cole Swindell was next up and he and his band followed suit. The crowd, primed from quality tailgating only a football stadium could offer, was already into the music. Aided by the short set time of his opening act stature, he was able to give the audience a setlist consisting entirely of radio hits. The crowd loved it.
Brantley Gilbert comes on next, he’s one of those guys that paid his dues writing songs that became hits for other artists before blowing up as a performer. His band may be the most diverse looking group of rockers one could imagine. Gilbert is wearing a tank top featuring his muscular build and tatted sleeve, the lead guitarist has dreads below his waste, the drummer is sporting a bleached Mohawk spiked up a solid 8 inches. Another guitarist has the hipster beard look. This is a country concert and at this point in the show not a single person in any of the bands has worn a cowboy hat. Not that it matters; I always argue that it’s all rock and roll. Gilbert’s band doesn’t just look like a motley crew of bikers turned rock-stars, they take a minute to riff a few hooks of music that inspired them throughout the set. From Stairway to Heaven to a plethora of 90’s hard rock, they played whatever it took for each of his band-mates to show their chops. Gilbert himself has brass knuckles attached to his microphone, which pretty much is the most badass thing I’ve ever seen a front man do. Gilbert also featured something I’ve never seen an opening act do, pyrotechnics. He also had a full video screen presentation, but that’s just a side affect of having opening acts that are headlining their own shows at slightly smaller venues.
Jason Aldean is really a co-headliner. No one can deny that he has become a heavy hitter in country music in the last decade. Several concert-goers I spoke with felt that he should have been the headliner. I had to tell them he might be more popular right now, but he doesn’t have the pedigree that Chesney has. Just a few summers ago Tim McGraw preceded Chesney on the stage, which just goes to show, you can never be too big to be an opening act. The stage set had a giant pyramid with LCD lights displaying a flaming “A” in the center and Aldean rose out of this for the first number. For some reason I always like it when a band starts off with their first hit, and Aldean did this by opening with “Hick Town”. After that it’s a bombardment of hits. Aldean really used the stage: he had microphones set up and tuned for him in various locations, especially out on the T-shaped protrusion, which he used extensively. Two of Aldean’s hits “Dirt Road Anthem” and “My Kinda Party” are written and originally recorded by the proceeding act Brantley Gilbert, but that doesn’t mean Aldean doesn’t bring his own style to them. There is something subtle yet distinctive about the way Aldean does what he does. His love songs, and most of his songs are love songs, have a way of putting you in them, from dusting off a seat in “Big Green Tractor”, to making love on a hillside next to the railroad tracks listing to the rhythm of the “Night Train”, to getting over a break up in the “The Truth”, to having your girl save your day by just being there in “When She Says Baby”. Aided by Kurt Allison’s lead guitar the music transcends from heartfelt to sexy. Which is a huge part of his success. In addition to his own hits he played Tom Petty’s “Won’t Back Down”, a real treat for me since I don’t just love cover songs, I’m a huge Petty fan. Petty is a huge influence on a lot of the modern country artists. Another example of how country is really just rock and roll (I’d say wearing boots and a cowboy hat, but so few of the artists wear them it would be inaccurate). Aldean closed with “She’s Country” and I don’t think anyone was less then completely satiated with the performance. It was almost hard to believe after this much rocking there was still more to come.
Chesney, not letting a man rising out of a pyramid out do him, appeared out of the middle of the stadium sitting on a platform suspended above the crowd for “Drink It Up”. The platform zigged and zagged across the stadium before delivering the Big Revival Tour’s musical savior to the stage. Chesney’s music personifies summer, and even on a muggy Pasadena night you could feel the cool Caribbean breeze that Chesney somehow packs on his tour bus. Early in the show he tells the crowd “for the next two hours your ass is mine” but in reality, it was he who gave himself to the crowd. It’s impossible for him to play all of his hits in the span of one concert, and when an artist has more than enough rocking fun songs to fill the set list, I wonder if they will stay rocking or go with some of their tearjerkers. As every ‘80s hair band knows the ballad is the one that makes your career. Chesney split the difference by slowing it down for tracks like “You and Tequila”, “Wild Child”, but really only hitting the heart on “Anything But Mine”. Which isn’t entirely true because even his faster songs have a way of hitting home. Most of his hits and nearly everything in tonight’s show was something that everyone relates to, and everyone is singing along, from his early hits like “How Forever Feels”, “I Go Back”, and “No Shoes No Shirt No Problem” to his more recent “American Kids” and “Til It’s Gone”, to his middle era stuff like “Summertime” and “Out Last Night”, he kept the hits coming. He squeezed in AC/DC’s “Whole Lotta Rosie” featuring his very hippie-esque female bassists (Harmoni Kelly) singing. He took a moment to say how honored he was to be playing the Rose Bowl, a stadium that has such a history in football before going into and closing the show with “Boys of Fall”, Chesney’s ode to America’s most popular sport. Personally I felt this was an odd choice to end the set, but than he knows he’s coming back on stage for some encores so maybe it’s what’s best for him before kicking it up a notch to close the show. Just to show that even Chesney feels that Aldean is on par with him, Aldean came out for all the encores, starting with “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy”, then John Cougar Mellancamp’s “Hurt So Good”. Next they did Aldean’s “The Only Way I Know” with Chesney filling in for Luke Bryan and Eric Church. I can’t think of a time where an earlier act came out and did their song in the encore. They then closed the show with Bryan Adam’s “Summer of ’69”. I think I speak for everyone when I say socks were officially rocked off. Of course everyone is wearing either boots or flip flops, and it takes a lot of rocking to get a sock out of a boot, I think the flip flop wearers had their socks rocked off before they even put them on in anticipation.
Getting the chance to see these five bands together was my kinda party and something that just don’t happen twice.

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Rating out of 11: 
7