A version of my review originally appeared at ocregister.com.
Photos by Kelly Swift.
Photos by Kelly Swift.
When it comes to masterful electric guitarists in modern country music, Brad Paisley is right at the top with Keith Urban.
During a sold out Hollywood Bowl show, he continually amazed with a series of runs that were tasteful without coming across as self-indulgent.
This tour’s set design, in support of last year's solid "Moonshine in the Trunk," incorporated a working bar where fans and other musicians could watch selected songs. Paisley has said he considers the concerts to be therapy sessions after hard days at work – a theme of latest single "Crushin' It."
Friday night, the LA crowd definitely had no problem letting off some steam. Paisley first appeared on a raised platform to launch the spirited 95-minute proceedings with a jaunty "River Bank," as images of people cavorting around a lake and a hamster on jet skis was projected on the screens.
Humor plays a major part in Paisley's appeal (two hand-picked comedians served as emcees and did short routines here). "Celebrity" prompted plenty of laughter: the video footage included outlandish TMZ-style story headlines and a Paisley-style mascot who got into mischief (clad in a New England Patriots jersey, it deflated a football). A real version came out to slap high fives at the end.
A minute into the serious-minded "This is Country Music," Paisley stopped and gave his electric guitar to a young man in the audience. The title track, which name checks old TV series "The Dukes of Hazzard," featured Paisley's fast fretwork in tandem with his fiddle player.
Opening act Justin Moore joined Paisley on rowdy 2007 country chart topper "I'm Still a Guy," which reinforced macho attitudes. The pair joked around and grabbed a fan's phone for a "manly" selfie. Romantic ballad "She's Everything" contained some excellent guitar work. Mickey Guyton, third act on the bill, ably subbed for Alison Krauss with smooth vocals on captivating, platinum-seller "Whiskey Lullaby."
Paisley constantly worked both sides of the stage and peppered the songs and images with ample LA references. He even went into the audience for "Beat This Summer." The band added soaring Kings of Leon-esque vocals during the amorous selection, "Perfect Storm." Both were set highlights.
"Old Alabama" served as a lead in for the singer/guitarist's trip to a second stage at the benched section. He played fine solo acoustic takes of "Waitin' on a Woman" (still with poignant Andy Griffith screen cameo) and "Remind Me" (duet partner Carrie Underwood was virtually "connected" via Facetime).
Later, two teenage boys were invited onstage to play a Nintendo game as the band did blazing instrumental "Time Warp" and the results were projected behind them. It was fun to watch cartoon superhero versions of Paisley's country contemporaries during the party-hearty "Crushin' It." Impressively, he crafted the animated music video for under $1000.
Finally, the barroom singalong "Alcohol" ended the gig on a fun note.
"Let's get this redneck party on, Hollywood style," urged Justin Moore, during his 50-minute set immediately preceding Paisley. He frequently celebrated hillbillies in lyric and deeds.
The singer started off with the brash, twangy country rocker "Point at You," got rowdy on a honky tonkin' "Bait a Hook" and then whipped the crowd into a frenzy during the sinister, swampy "Backwoods" and high energy "Small Town Throwdown" - a recent hit with Brantley Gilbert.
Yet the Arkansas hitmaker also showed his sensitive side amid the touching ballad "If Heaven Wasn't So Far Away" (dedicated to armed services personnel like his grandfathers) and affecting "Smalltown USA," about remembering your roots. Moore got caught up in emotion from the song's sentiment and playing the Hollywood Bowl. He graciously thanked fans, radio and said the show meant he could strike an item from his bucket list.
First up was Mickey Guyton. The promising newcomer went to high school and college in LA before heading to Nashville and signing to Capitol Records. She performed at the White House for a PBS special.
Also overcome by the importance of playing the Bowl and a very responsive audience, she barely finished "Better Than You Left Me."
A current top 30 single, it was inspired by an ex-boyfriend and is among several songs played from her terrific new self-titled debut EP.
The exuberant "It Happened So Fast" was highly appealing, while the heartbreaking "Why Baby Why" displayed Guyton's full vocal range. It recalled Lee Ann Womack and drew loud cheers.
Meanwhile, "Pretty Little Mustang" boasted a more country/rock edge with mandolin and some dancing around.
She is definitely one to watch.