Monday, July 11, 2011

Dierks Bentley concert review

photo by James Minchin III
A version of my review originally appeared at

America’s greatest pastime and one of its oldest music forms have always mixed well together. That also held true on Saturday night, when modern country music star Dierks Bentley did a rousing hour-long show at Angel Stadium.

The second in a five-part concert series was part of the Angels’ season-long 50th anniversary festivities. Each gig takes place after selected night games. Last month, Taio Cruz christened the series and the London R&B/pop singer admitted to TV broadcast commentators Mark Gubicza and Victor Rojas that he’d never attended a baseball game before.

Conversely, Bentley witnessed his first Angels game before the performance and later told the crowd, “I didn’t know a lot about the organization, but after meeting everyone from the top down, I can tell you they’re a class act. You’ve got a new fan here and I’ll be watching for the rest of the year.”

During an Angels game, the crowd is always dotted with red hats. Saturday, as the innings progressed, that common headwear was interspersed with a rare sight: black and white Stetsons.

Right after the team beat the Mariners, a rectangular stage and a few speakers were quickly wheeled out to the grass area behind second base. Stadium ushers held onto roping to form a makeshift VIP area in front, apparently for contest winners from radio sponsor KFRG/95.1 FM and suite holders, who filled the small perimeter.

The official attendance was 44,111 - a season high and the largest since 2009. A large amount of people stuck around for the music. I'd hazard a guess that many Bentley followers bought inexpensive tickets just to see the musician, who rarely does solo gigs in these parts.

Since making his major label debut in 2003, Bentley has racked up more than a dozen top 10 country singles, three gold or platinum albums, plus a CMA and Academy of Country Music Award. On last year’s acclaimed Up on the Ridge album, the Phoenix native delved into bluegrass and roots music territory with winning results. Guests included Kris Kristofferson, Alison Krauss, Vince Gill, Miranda Lambert, Chris Thile & the Punch Brothers, Jamie Johnson and Del McCoury.

Clad in jeans, t-shirt and jean jacket, Bentley and the five-piece band opened with spirited hit “Feel That Fire” in Anaheim. They served up a strong sound emanating from acoustic and two electric guitars.

Before the uplifting “Every Mile a Memory,” the amiable singer reiterated that “Tori Hunter killed it tonight,” regarding the slugger’s two home runs. Having earlier witnessed tailgaters in the stadium parking lot as the tour bus rolled in, Bentley “knew we found a home.”

With that, the group tore into party anthem “Am I the Only One,” Bentley’s current top 10 single from a forthcoming studio album. It featured a raspy, rapid-fire vocal delivery as people hoisted their drinks in salute.

A feisty fiddle and banjo-fueled “Free and Easy (Down the Road I Go),” found Bentley jumping around the cramped stage as the audience clapped and sang along loudly. Very attentive (and obviously possessing sharp eyesight), the scruffy singer frequently pointed out gyrating women in the upper sections.

Contemplative ballad “Settle for a Slowdown” was referred as “country western group therapy” and “How I’m Doin’” was dedicated to a cheating ex-girlfriend who provided fodder for several older songs. The latter found people dancing in the aisles and one person seen on the projection screens held up a sign that read “Save a Horse, Ride an Angel.”

Bright pedal steel and sprightly electric guitar tones livened up “Lot of Leavin’ Left to Do,” while the title track to Up on the Ridge came had a haunting vibe.

U2 played Angel Stadium last month and much ado was made about how the massive claw stage design tore up the field something fierce. Bentley dedicated his bluegrass take on the Irish rockers’ “Pride (In the Name of Love)” – also from the Ridge album – to the grounds crew.

“This is our hillbilly version,” he explained. The band utilized fiddle, mandolin and standup bass to fine effect; the bassist ably handled the soaring chorus that McCoury originally did in the studio. Finally, the twangy country rock of “What Was I Thinkin’” provided a festive send off. 

Dierks Bentley, Angel Stadium, Anaheim, Calif. July 9, 2011
Setlist: Feel That Fire/Every Mile a Memory/Am I the Only One/Free and Easy (Down the Road I Go)/Trying to Stop Your Leaving/Settle for a Slowdown/Lot of Leavin’ Left to Do/Up on the Ridge/How Am I Doin’/Pride (In the Name of Love)/Come a Little Closer/Sideways/What Was I Thinkin’ 

The Angels anniversary concert series continues with Ludacris (Aug. 6), MercyMe (Aug. 20) and Ne-Yo (Sept. 3), free with regular game ticket purchase. For more info, go to

No comments: