The grills were hot, cowboy boots were stomping, empty beer cans multiplied rapidly, and muddied trucks adorned with confederate flags packed the lot. No, it wasn't the Redneck Yacht Club, it was just folks tailgating before Jason Aldean's concert, Saturday at Cruzan Amphitheatre.
After the last games of cornhole, beer pong, flip cup, and "drink the beer" wrapped up, country music fans headed (or stumbled, in some cases) to the amphitheatre with lawn chairs and towels for a night of Thomas Rhett, Jake Owen, and Aldean himself.
At 7:30 on the dot, Rhett kicked off the night with a brief performance with his songs "Whatcha Got in That Cup," "Beer with Jesus," and "Something to Do with My Hands." Dee Jay Silver kept the vibe strong by playing country mashups in between acts.
Jake Owen hit the stage with his heartbreaker "Alone With You." But it was his song "Barefoot Blue Jean Night" that really kicked off the performance, at least judging by the off-key singing by the majority of the audience. Owen also sang his hits, complete with impressive guitar shredding and light effects.
Jason Aldean finally sauntered onstage in his country best: tight denim jeans, a T-shirt, cowboy hat, and, of course, boots. Aldean opened up with "Crazy Town" off his album Wide Open. Our personal favorite is "When She Says Baby," and yes, we sang off-key with the rest of the crowd.
Aldean belted out the tearjerker duet "Don't You Wanna Stay," and right when we thought he was going to sing it all by himself, out came a special guest to duet-up with him. Kelly Clarkson, well, Tupac style, that is. The Clarkson hologram was so realistic that the audience gasped then cheered. Side effects from beer goggles still had audience members think it was real ("Really?! It's her, I swear").
Aldean's "Dirt Road Anthem" sparked life back into a waning crowd. He wrapped up the night with "She's Country" and an extended "My Kinda Party," and a huge flourish. We're talking lights, crazy shredding, and plenty of country 'tude. Aldean exudes a rock star presence unlike any other country star we've seen, and he does it to the max. So Tom Petty's comment about calling today's country music "bad rock with a fiddle"? Not here, Tom. Not here.