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Last Night: Brad Paisley at Cruzan Amphitheatre, August 14

Brad Paisley

With Justin Moore and Darius Rucker

Cruzan Amphitheatre, West Palm Beach

Saturday, August 14, 2010

View a slideshow from the concert here.

The Review:

As Brad Paisley's band played the opening notes of his latest chart-topping hit,

"Water," a ridiculously huge video screen loomed in the background with

images of a swimming pool. While a giant projection of the country megastar emerged from the pool

onscreen, the real-life Paisley emerged simultaneously from a part of

the stage designed vaguely to resemble an above-ground pool, prompting

screams of delight from the audience. This was but one highlight of Paisley's H2O Tour, a Saturday of entertainment under one

big top at West Palm Beach's Cruzan

Amphitheatre that showed his mad skills both as a ringmaster and magician.

Early arrivals braving the midafternoon heat swarmed ringmaster

Paisley's carnival-style Water World Plaza, complete with fishing and

driving simulators, volunteers from the Water=Hope Campaign, and a full

concert featuring up-and-comer Easton Corbin of "A Little More Country

Than

That" fame opened, followed by equally promising newcomers Josh Thompson

and Steel Magnolia, whose hit "Keep on Loving You" managed to sound

lovely and

harmonious even from a distance.

Once the focus shifted to the main stage, opening acts Justin Moore and

Hootie and the Blowfish-frontman-gone-solo Darius Rucker skillfully

navigated what appeared to be a precariously narrow area near the front

of the stage to accommodate Paisley's enormous stage setup, which

remained concealed by a giant black curtain. Backed by a keyboardist and

drummer on raised platforms, Rucker fit three tunes from his Hootie

days: "Let Her Cry," "Only Wanna Be With You," and a surprisingly funky

version of "Hold My Hand." In addition to his solo hits, "It Won't Be

Like This for Long" and "Don't Think I Don't Think About It," he

balanced his new country direction and his pop past by covering the Hank

Williams Jr. song "Family Tradition" and closing his 11-song set with

Prince's "Purple Rain."

When Paisley took to the stage a short

time later, his skills as a magician were revealed in dramatic fashion.

Throughout his two-hour set, Paisley the magician alternated between his

many

blinged-out guitars with about the same frequency as Lady Gaga changes

outfits and took full advantage of the video screen's

capability, using it to conjure up a virtual Andy Griffith for a duet on

"Waitin' on a Woman" and Allison Krauss for "Whisky Lullaby." In the

case of Krauss, the digital version of the singer appeared so eerily

realistic that it took us a second to register that it wasn't actually

her.

About midway into the show, he thrilled the crowd by running to

a second stage area stationed in the middle of the audience, where he

remained for three songs. Yet Paisley was at his best when he switched into storyteller mode. He

opened his song "Letter to Me" by reminiscing about his days as a scared

17-year-old. "High school is not necessarily the best years of your

life," the 37-year-old told the teens in the audience. After closing with the love ballad "Then," Paisley and company returned

for two encores: "Ticks" and "Alcohol," his ode to the stuff that,

as he puts it, has been "helping white people dance" for ages.

Critic's notebook

Better than: being in a sauna, although it felt like one at times, thanks to the humidity.

Personal bias: My friend who accompanied me doesn't listen to country music, and most

of her knowledge of Paisley comes from seeing his wife, Kimberly

Williams-Paisley, in her role as Annie in the 1991 movie Father of the

Bride. Afterward, she declared the show entertaining and Paisley's music

quite infectious. "You can't help wanting to sing along with it," she

said.

Random detail: Paisley is older than me by 15 days.

By the way: Security had to drag an unruly concertgoer from the front row during Rucker's set. Apparently heat and alcohol don't mix.

Set list:

Water

Online

American Saturday Night

Wrapped Around

She's Everything

You Do the Math

Celebrity

Waitin' on a Woman

Catch All the Fish

Letter to Me

Mud on the Tires

I'm Still a Guy

Whiskey Lullaby

The World

I'm Gonna Miss Her

Welcome to the Future

Then


Encore:

Ticks

Alcohol (with Steel Magnolia, Easton Corbin, Josh Thompson, Darius Rucker, and Justin Moore)


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