With Justin Moore and Darius Rucker
Cruzan Amphitheatre, West Palm Beach
Saturday, August 14, 2010
View a slideshow from the concert here.
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
That" fame opened, followed by equally promising newcomers Josh Thompson
and Steel Magnolia, whose hit "Keep on Loving You" managed to sound
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
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
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.
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
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.
American Saturday Night
You Do the Math
Waitin' on a Woman
Catch All the Fish
Letter to Me
Mud on the Tires
I'm Still a Guy
I'm Gonna Miss Her
Welcome to the Future
Alcohol (with Steel Magnolia, Easton Corbin, Josh Thompson, Darius Rucker, and Justin Moore)