Monday, October 21, 2013

Jason Aldean, Jake Owen, Thomas Rhett concert review: Hollywood, Calif.

My review originally appeared at

The Guns N’ Roses T-shirt spoke volumes.

Worn by the bassist in Jason Aldean’s touring band, it was a subtle reminder that nowadays much of modern country music is equally about hard rock, heartland values and attitudes.

Sonically speaking, if there weren’t any steel guitars involved, you’d almost be hard-pressed to distinguish between genres.

A Stagecoach 2014 headliner who is up for three Country Music Awards on Nov. 6, the superstar made his Hollywood Bowl debut with a satisfying 85-minute concert stacked with Top 10 singles.

Last week, Aldean put out Night Train to Georgia, a fine live DVD shot earlier this year at his home state’s Sanford Stadium as well as Madison Square Garden and historic summer stops at Fenway Park and Wrigley Field.

Little has changed in the set list since then. More than five of the 15 tracks from 2012’s solid platinum-seller Night Train would have been preferred, but the other crowd-pleasers didn’t leave much to complain about.

Following the sound of a locomotive as intro, Aldean and his five backing musicians kicked off their sold-out show with “Crazy Town,” containing the geographically relevant lyric “Hollywood with a touch of twang.” Rainstorm projections on multiple screens provided a gorgeous juxtaposition with the full moon outside for poignant ballad “The Truth.” Aldean’s delivery really shined amid its appropriate lyrics about being on the West Coast.

Almost immediately, a stuffed horse made its rounds throughout the box seats (must be a country thing: it also happened during Keith Urban’s recent Bowl gig; sure beats being bopped in the head by an inflatable ball).

The highly melodic “Texas Was You,” enriched by pedal steel and blaring guitars, was a standout. When Aldean got to the line “Carolina was a black car, a big white number three” and Dale Earnhardt’s iconic racecar logo flashed on the screen, it drew loud cheers. 

Before “1994,” the star indulged the usual time-killing shtick of showing embarrassing old photos of him and his band, and then finally took a stroll onto the oval catwalk surrounding the pit area. 

While Kelly Clarkson didn’t appear in person here for their power-ballad duet “Don’t You Wanna Stay,” her sharp visage initially seemed very real, much like when Brad Paisley did the same with a screen version of Carrie Underwood on his last tour. 

Aldean also kicked it old-school by paying homage to Alabama, a “huge influence and one of the best bands of all time,” with a feisty “Tennessee River” (also the leadoff track on the new all-star tribute album Alabama and Friends). The original’s fiddle-driven tempo increase was replaced by equally effective banjo picking. 

Near the end, an amped-up “She’s Country” verged on AC/DC while the encore-starting “My Kinda Party” featured awesome metal-tinged guitar interplay by Jack Sizemore and Kurt Allison.
Talk about rocking out - Jake Owen (pictured, left) did plenty of that during his own excellent hour-long performance. Four electric guitars bolstered opening track “Anywhere with You” and “8 Second Ride” without overpowering them.

The gregarious singer made better use of the catwalk than Aldean did, engaging concertgoers throughout a 13-song set highlighted by soaring chart-toppers “Barefoot Blue Jean Night” and “Alone with You.”

A native of Vero Beach, Fla., Owen made passing reference to the Dodgers’ crushing division loss. His recollection about early-career days playing guitar sitting on a barstool led into the riveting piano ballad “What We Ain’t Got.” The soulful, organ-drenched "Don't Think I Can't Love You" was dedicated to his parents and their 35 year marriage.

It was among three impressive songs that previewed forthcoming album Days of Gold (due Dec. 3), providing a rare showcase of Owen’s emotional side. The bluesy title track, also his latest single, was a real stomper, bolstered by wailing harmonica.

Young singer Thomas Rhett already had tunes recorded by Aldean, Florida Georgia Line and Lee Brice, plus two minor country hits under his belt, before “It Goes Like This” reached No. 1 last week (songwriting runs in the family: his father Rhett Akins had some country hits in the mid-90's; both contributed to Aldean's latest album). The 23-year-old's eponymous debut is in stores Oct. 29.

Here in Hollywood, Rhett’s fun and way-too-short 15-minute set showed plenty of promise, especially the frisky “Get Me Some of That” and rambunctious twang of “Something to Do with My Hands.”

Before the hip-hop traces of "Front Porch Junkies," he pondered, "How many rednecks did they pack into this place tonight?" Of course "It Goes Like This" went down a storm." Definitely one to watch.

The Hollywood Bowl, Oct. 19, 2013
Jason Aldean
Main set: Crazy Town / Take a Little Ride / Tattoos on This Town / When She Says Baby / The Truth / Flyover States / Texas Was You / Johnny Cash / Amarillo Sky / Night Train / 1994 / Don't You Wanna Stay / Tennessee River (Alabama cover) / Big Green Tractor / The Only Way I Know / Dirt Road Anthem / She's Country
Encore: My Kinda Party / Hicktown 

Jake Owen
Setlist: Anywhere with You/One That Got Away/You and Me/Alone with You/Yee Haw/1972/What We Ain't Got/Summer Jam/Heaven/Barefoot Blue Jean Night/Don't Think I Can't Love You/Days of Gold/Eight Second Ride

Photos by Miguel Vasconcellos

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I saw the Night Train Tour @MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas on Oct 20, 2013. Thomas Rhett was great for the short amt of time he was on stage, Jake Owen was great and interacted with the audience, Jason Aldean was extremely disappointing, 45mins late, looked like he hadn't slept in days, acted like he didn't want to be there, played for less than an hour, sounded like crap, what a waste of money to listen to a terrible DJ try to keep the audience entertained until Jason decided to show up! Would not waste my $$$ on Jason again.