Monday, November 18, 2013

Lee Brice, Tyler Farr concert review: Anaheim, Calif.

My review originally appeared at
Lee Brice’s recent hit single is called “Parking Lot Party,” but Friday night in Anaheim the celebration happened inside a packed House of Blues, during the first of two sold-out Southern California performances within the venue chain (Hollywood followed on Saturday). 

I hadn’t seen so many cowboy hats fashioned from beer boxes since Stagecoach last spring.

Earlier Friday afternoon, Brice taped an appearance on The Tonight Show. (Celebrity chef, restaurateur and game-show host Guy Fieri, his fellow guest that episode, attended this O.C. gig.) A couple weeks ago, Brice’s gold-selling chart-topper “I Drive Your Truck” won the coveted Country Music Award for song of the year; he also was nominated for new artist of the year, despite issuing debut album Love Like Crazy in 2010, but lost to Kacey Musgraves.

Since the mid-2000s, the South Carolina native has co-penned tunes recorded by Tim McGraw, Jason Aldean, Blake Shelton, Kenny Chesney, Garth Brooks and Eli Young Band, the latter two of which went to No. 1. For 2012’s solid sophomore album Hard to Love, he co-produced and had a hand in more than half the lyrics. The rising star just completed a stint opening for Brad Paisley and heads back out on the road with Luke Bryan in January.

Brice and his six-piece band began their 85-minute HOB show with the strident, U2-styled guitar uplift of “That’s When You Know It’s Over.” Bolstered by three electric guitars, he impressively stretched his pipes and gave an equally vigorous vocal delivery to the earnest, Tracy Chapman-esque feel of his current title track. The lightweight bluesy-rock alcohol ode “Beer” came off like a TV commercial, though.

A bulk of the 15-song set concentrated on his latest disc, which is close to being certified gold. The Aerosmith-tinged “Friends We Won’t Forget” kept the energy level high, Brice looking happy as a clam. “That Way Again” utilized only acoustic guitar and organ; his impassioned vocal amid the quiet, dramatic ballad was a standout that recalled Alabama’s Randy Owen. (Many people in the crowd were inattentive during such slow numbers, but sang along heartily for the singles.)

“Don’t Believe Everything You Think,” spiked with Southern R&B flavors, and the folksy romantic charm of “A Woman Like You” proved strong. But the real stunners were the Eric Church composition “Life Off My Years,” about making the most of your time, and the poignant, piano-driven “I Drive Your Truck,” inspired by a Medal of Honor-awarded sergeant killed in Afghanistan and how his family coped with his death.

Minor pacing issues affected the show’s tail-end. There were two new tracks possibly slated for a 2014 album (the dynamic Springsteen-goes-country vibe of “Drinking Class” fared best, then some excruciatingly long solos and introductions prefaced rambunctious closer “Parking Lot Party,” assisted by warm-up act Tyler Farr. There was no encore.

“California isn’t a place that I frequent often, but when I do, it’s a party,” said Farr at the outset of his opening turn. Clad in a Hank Williams Jr. T-shirt, he turned in a mildly raucous 40-minute set that was well-received.

The twangy amalgam of country, rock and hip-hop at the center of Farr’s album Redneck Crazy, which debuted in the upper reaches of the Billboard 200 and country charts, frequently espouses virtues of certain women (“Hot Mess,” “Dirty”) and liquor (“Whiskey in My Water,” “Makes You Wanna Drink).

At the Mouse House, those songs and others made the raspy Missourian come across like a laid-back country dude (several lyrics mention flip-flops). He hopped into the crowd during a winsome “Ain’t Even Drinkin’ and even did a short rap bit, complete with drum machine.

A surprising, countrified cover of Awolnation’s alt-rock hit “Sail” and Alabama’s classic “Song of the South” displayed his varied influences. (Some drunken young gals in those aforementioned beer-box hats stood behind me and one asked the other, “Do we know this song?”) Farr finished with his crowd-pleasing big-hit title track (the humorous video of which features Willie Robertson of Duck Dynasty) while his electric guitarists and bassist all appended a metal-lite solo.
photo by Philip Cosores

No comments: