Country music storyteller Brad Paisley took the stage at Perfect Vodka Amphitheater on a surprisingly cool Florida night this past Saturday.
A giddy crowd of boots, braids, and caps-sporting fans counted down to Paisley's stage arrival with the assistance of a neon sign that flashed "Happy Hour Starts in 26 Seconds..." A video of a country river helped set the mood as the country singer finally came out, diving into his feel-good hit, "River Bank." With vocals on point and arguably better than on the radio, Paisley donned the modern country hunk uniform of a black t-shirt, tight dark jeans, and a signature cowboy hat.
His guitar was blue and sparkly, a rather flashy choice in axe for an otherwise understated, manly singer.
The set design for this show was fitting for the star's set full of fun-loving country anthems. An elaborate bar displaying a variety of LED graphics housed a gaggle of lucky patrons who scored not only drinks but a prime view of Paisley as he performed only feet away. When Paisley played "Water," the bar's display changed to a fish tank, and when, without a single pause, he launched into "Moonshine In The Trunk," the bar switched over to a flashy display of rocket ship graphics to match the stage's background, while Paisley swapped out his blue guitar for a more subdued gray one.
A Brad Paisley mascot took a seat at the bar for "Celebrity," while a video showed it carrying out some mischievous behavior, such as "flashing" pedestrians, replacing Miley Cyrus in "Wrecking Ball," and deflating footballs in a Patriots uniform. Paisley then sang "Country Nation," and even gave a shout-out to the Miami Hurricanes, much to the audience's delight. Even better was when The U's mascot, Sebastian the Ibis, came out for a visit in full gear.
Later on in the set, opening act Justin Moore appeared for a duet on the manly-man anthem "I'm Still A Guy." Shirtless dancing men in pink tutus also joined, and hilarity ensued when the whole crew paused for a selfie in front of flashing pink graphics that read, "Manly Selfie Moment." Next, Moore and Paisley mimed shooting cartoon ducks with their guitars as graphics flashed: "Justin Won...On Tuesday. Brad Wins!"
Slowing things down, Paisley crooned the baby-making ballad, "She's Everything," as attendees sang along. Switching guitars more frequently than award show hosts switch their gowns, Paisley proved to be fun, silly at times, but talented as all hell. His flaunted his guitar chops, especially during his brief rendition of Jimmy Hendrix's "Foxy Lady" and into his goofily endearing "Ticks."
After he dropped "American Saturday Night," opening act Mickey Guyton joined Paisley for the haunting "Whiskey Lullaby," and it seemed as if the rowdy crowd finally calmed down. Yet the mood lightened up again with "Beat This Summer."
"It's summer all year long down here!" Paisley noted before he launched into the sunny single. The LED sunshine and beach graphics transformed into stormy waves and lightning as "Perfect Storm" came on.
During the breakdown on "Old Alabama," a track more reminiscent of traditional country, Paisley moved to the back stage. An acoustic version of "Waitin' On A Woman" was next, with sound bites of Andy Griffith speaking parts of the chorus.
"We miss you, Andy Griffith!" said Paisley. The audience seemed to agree.
"Remind Me" was next, with a pre-recorded Facetime setup of Carrie Underwood singing her part in a dressing room. She humorously waved away a hair dresser and a can of hairspray. "She's not here because she's stuck up," joked Paisley.
The classic "I'm Going to Miss Her" had the audience singing along with extreme gusto (also known a drunkenness). Another memorable moment came when Paisley played a fast-tempo song, inviting an 11-year-old boy to play Mario Cart on the 60-foot screen on stage. After breaking a new high score, the boy was given a guitar from Paisley. It'd be an understatement to say this was the kid's favorite moment of the concert.
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Following the new-ish tune "Crushing It" and the classic "Mud On The Tires," Paisley returned to the stage for his encore, consisting of the geeky anthem, "Online," the romantic "I Thought I Loved You Then," and the barfly favorite, "Alcohol," during which Paisley pulled out a little parlor trick, playing his guitar with a beer bottle. See? We told you he was talented! He also proved quite generous, handing over his giant brimmed hat to a fan, revealing a disheveled head of hair.
Every part of the concert was detailed and thoughtfully executed, whether it was showing clips of the Miami Dolphins during "Crushing It," all the West Palm shout-outs throughout his songs, or the way Paisley reached to meet fans' hands whenever he could. With his unmatched talent and generosity, Paisley proved that he's earned his lofty place in country music.