The last time Dierks Bentley was in Fresno (for 2017’s What the Hell tour) he left the minute the show was over and drove up toward Yosemite. He slept the night packed in a hotel room with five guys, so they could be up the next morning to hike El Capitan.
The plans were different on his return trip.
“I’m not doing that tonight,” Bentley said, midway through his set to full-to-packed house at the Save Mart Center on Friday night.
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And he did. From several black Solo cups (his signature) and a shotgunned can of beer (also a signature part of a Dierks Bentley show). He also ran and jumped and shimmied across the stage, slapping hands and fist bumping fans, while leading the crowd in a 90-minute country music sing-along party that ended up being a hell of a good time.
Jon Pardi was sick, which he apologized for several times during his set, though aside from a slight rasp in the voice, it would be hard to tell he was having much of an off night. He made up for it by letting the crowd do some of the heavy lifting on songs like “Dirt on my Boots.”
Side thought: “Pardi animals” seems like a pun someone should use. As in, are there any “Pardi Animals” in the crowd tonight.
Tenille Townes is a Canadian country singer in the vein of Shania Twain. That is to say, she pulls heavy on the pop and rock influences.
Hot Country Knights is a ’90s country cover band led by Bentley (or maybe not), dressed in a mullet wig, Oakley glasses and leopard print tank top. It’s the kind of thing that would be unwatchable, were it real, with the synchronized dance moves and rock star ego trips interrupting the set.
As a 20-minute skit at the top of the show, it works, especially once you’re in on the joke.
This reviewer is officially old
It’s become kind of standard to have DJs playing between sets at these arena rock shows. AyDamn was set up on a stage near the end of the arena floor and did a really good job of keeping the crowd hyped before Bentley came on stage. Seriously, he had much of the crowd dancing in their seats.
It was an odd mix he pulled, segueing back and forth between rock, country and hip-hop — “Friends in Low Places” directly into the Spice Girls, for example.
Anyone who doubts the popularity of hip-hop in pop culture has never seen a packed crowd at a country concert singing along to Biz Markie.
And for anyone who doubts the popularity of electronic dance music: The DJ played an EDM remix of Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin.” The remix of Johnny Cash’s “I Walk the Line” was sacrilege.
The sound was too loud with too much bass during much of the the night. Townes’ set especially suffered. At times her voice seemed muffled and lost in the fray.
Luckily, that wasn’t the case during her duet with Bentley on the track “Different for Girls.”
Pardi has been doing two numbers with Bentley on this tour —”John Deere Green” and a cover of Dwight Yoakam’s “Guitars, Cadillacs.” Both were missing from Friday’s set, presumably because Pardi was sick.
Bentley has a charm that is particular to country artists. He is earnest and authentic in his interactions with the crowd and the enjoyment that he has doing his job. But he also doesn’t take himself too seriously, either.
Exhibit A is the surprise video that cues up the show’s encore “Drunk on a Plane.”
- Burning Man
- Up on the Ridge
- Somewhere on a Beach
- Woman, Amen
- I Hold On
- Different for Girls (with Tenille Townes)
- The Mountain
- Am I the Only One
- Come a Little Closer
- Say You Do
- What Was I Thinkin’
- Drunk on a Plane
- Free and Easy (Down the Road I Go)