Fresno Beehive

Concert review: Blake Shelton is an everyman country star on Save Mart Center tour stop

Blake Shelton performs in concert at Save Mart Center Friday night, March 3, 2017 in Fresno, Calif.
Blake Shelton performs in concert at Save Mart Center Friday night, March 3, 2017 in Fresno, Calif.

Blake Shelton is the country music everyman of his generation.

Yes, he’s an awards-show darling and mega-star celebrity, who is dating a mega-star celebrity. He also is a savvy hit maker, both as an artist himself and as a coach on “The Voice.” And yet, watching Shelton on stage during his nearly two-hour Doing it to Country Songs tour at Save Mart Center on Friday night, the singer comes across as anything but.

Here, he is your best friend from college, cracking jokes and having drinks; even playing the wingman when the need arises. Shelton exudes a sweaty slacker charm, with the loose jeans and collared shirt, open at the neck, sleeves rolled. It is recognizable and relatable.

At moments, the two-hour set felt like a well-produced karaoke night out.

That’s a total compliment.

Shelton ran through the hits (“Every Time I Hear That Song,” “Neon Lights,” “God Gave Me You”) plus a few old tunes (from “way back in the day”) and a couple of covers, including an encore performance of “Footloose,” which had me all smiles.

It was obviously an arena show. You’ve got the massive stage, sweeping lights and video screens. You’ve got the audience sing-alongs, with the cellphone lights waving. At the same time, the show felt spontaneous and loose, as fitting of a guy who performs without ear monitors (a rarity in the industry. I was shocked.) and writes lyrics like “the more I drink, the more I drink.”

You can’t argue with that logic.

The openers:

Sundance Head walked on stage to the Andy Griffith theme, looked a lot like ZZ Top and delivered a quick set of mostly up-tempo bluesy rock tunes, suitable to a Texas trio. There also was a particularly killer ballad that showcased the versatility of Sundance’s singing.

He won “The Voice” for good reason and had, by far, the best vocal delivery of the night.

Playing as openers at an arena show probably doesn’t do the band justice.

This is something you need to see at a club. Hopefully they will get back around on their own headlining tour.

Where Sundance kept things lo-fi, RaeLynn embraced the arena setting, with scripted lighting cues that played to the dynamics of the songs. The opening number, “WildHorse,” was particularly visually fun.

RaeLynn represents country music in the most contemporary sense. Take away the setting, take away her Texas drawl, and she is just another pop singer. Luckily, she has a collection of really good pop songs to back her up.

Stray observations:

▪ This concert was brought to you by Nissan, according to the video screen commercials that played in front of each set.

▪ From where I was sitting, the security earned their money for the night.

Without complaining about being touching distance from the stage, it was distracting to deal with security dealing with errant fans looking to upgrade their seats while getting into screaming matches. It’s not like there’s a concert going on or anything.

▪ Best/worst homemade sign of the night: “We Heart Head.”

▪ Number of Conway Twitty references in Shelton songs: Two. And it wasn’t enough.

▪ Note to all arena artists stopping through town: You’ll be tempted to do the “Fresno? … Fres-yes!” bit. I will forgive Shelton for doing it. The rest of you have been warned.

Check out The Bee’s photo gallery from the show.

Joshua Tehee: 559-441-6479, @joshuatehee

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