Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Brad Paisley, Tyler Farr, Maddie & Tae concert review: Irvine, Calif.

photo by Kelly A. Swift
Brad Paisley has a knack for coming up with amusing songs that tap into the zeitgeist like few others in his genre. “Celebrity,” “Online” and “I’m Still a Guy” are key examples. During a packed concert at Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre, the country singer/guitarist unveiled another memorable one amidst a solo acoustic segment.

This time, it revolved around the worst kind of selfies and featured the refrain “you oughta be ashamed.” Many audience members were laughing hysterically by the time Paisley’s band joined him to sing the final lines, “the internet is forever.”

The North American tour, called “Life Amplified,” launched just a few days ago. Paisley warned about potential mistakes, but they went unfounded. Taking the stage to the theme from “2001: A Space Odyssey,” the musicians kicked off the 1 hour, 40-minute set with a twangy “The World,” a country chart topper from the “Time Well Wasted” album.

There were some replays from last year’s Hollywood Bowl gig: most of the same songs, albeit in a shuffled order; two bars onstage where fan club members could hang out and hoist beers; a walk into the crowd to perform at a B-stage; opening acts guesting on the same tunes ("I'm Still a Guy," "Whiskey Lullaby").

Still, a fun, well-paced concert filled with multiple hits, striking visuals and Paisley’s always-dazzling fretwork is nothing to complain about. An electrifying “Country Nation” (the crowd cheered loudly when sports clips on the big screens showed an awesome catch by the Angels’ Mike Trout and a mighty homer by teammate Albert Pujols), “This is Country Music” (with a bit of Merle Haggard’s “Mama Tried”), “Old Alabama” (where drummer an Anaheim native Ben Sesar and fiddler Justin Williamson got spotlights), “Beat This Summer,” “Southern Comfort Zone” and wistful acoustic ballad “Letter to Me” were among the highlights.

Toward the end, Paisley was joined by his duet partner Demi Lovato for their latest single “Without a Fight.” Irvine marked the first time they’d done it live together and the track’s sinewy, 1970s Rolling Stones-styled groove elevated the excitement level even more. The giddy pop star noted that she was raised in Texas, a fan of country music and that her parents were in attendance. After a feisty fiddle-led “Online,” the main set concluded with “Mud on the Tires.”

photo by Kelly A. Swift
Tyler Farr launched his solid 45-minute opening set with the swampy, attitude-laden rock of “C.O.U.N.T.R.Y.,” from last year’s “Suffer in Peace” album. 
The Missouri singer had no trouble getting some crowd participation going early for his hit “Whiskey in My Water” and really gave it his all with a wailing vocal. That also held true for the platinum-seller “Redneck Crazy.” Yet beneath the camo-clad gruff exterior lies a passionate soul.

With acoustic guitar in hand, Farr did lines from Hank Williams and Johnny Cash tunes and admitted to not knowing much about the legends, before admitting “I’m only 32, but I try my best to write good country music.” He proceeded to do a stirring take on 2012 ballad “Hello Goodbye” and an impassioned “Withdrawals.” Farr and his rocking band capped things off with the catchy singalong “A Guy Walks Into a Bar.”

photo by Kelly A. Swift
Earlier in the evening, Maddie & Tae did a pleasantly enjoyable 25-minute set featuring songs from last year’s “Start Here,” where the young female country/pop duo co-penned all the songs.
Brimming from ear to ear, they excelled most during a shrewd “Sierra,” the sweet seamless harmonies of “No Place Like You” and platinum selling country chart topper “Girl in a Country Song,” which takes aim at the bro country trend (including fellow opener Farr).
My review originally appeared at

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