Brad Paisley hits the refrain of “This is Country Music,” and it’s like he’s summing up the entirety of his Weekend Warrior tour, which kicked off its 2018 run this week and stopped at Fresno’s Save Mart Center arena Friday night.
It’s not the song itself, but Paisley and his assembled group of tour openers.
This is country music.
It is a changing aesthetic, for sure. Based on the clothes and the hair, Chase Bryant (who played the second spot for the night and has his familial roots in country) could have been Harry Styles or a Jonas Brother, or Bruce Springsteen (with the blue jeans and bandana hanging from his back pocket).
Lindsay Ell opted out of the silk and lace we’ve seen on singers like RaeLynn, and instead went with black jeans, sneakers and a tank top, a ball cap that read GRL PWR (no vowels) and a guitar. Her songs, “Wildfire” in particular, played like so much stadium rock. At one point, she brought out a megaphone and sang through it.
Dustin Lynch looked the most country in his signature cowboy hat but had the Beastie Boys as his intro music and a Who-style drum kit with two massive bass kicks. When his band sauntered out on the catwalk for the final number, “Seein’ Red,” it brought to mind (visually and sonically) the hard rockin’ ’80s.
For his part, Paisley kept things traditional. Or, neo-traditional. After all, the guy does reference the Grand Ole Opry and Prince in the same song. His set, which ran 20-plus songs over 90 minutes or so, was still hard hitting, upbeat and energetic. But there was plenty of pedal steel and fiddle playing and guitar-pickin’, too.
Paisley is known for that guitar pickin,’ and for his note-bending solos. He gives himself time on each song to show off some. It’s showy without being excessive, which is no easy task.
▪ Paisley went nostalgic on the opening number with a video montage that referenced Steven Spielberg, “Stranger Things” and “Knight Rider” (with a cameo by the Hoff himself).
▪ Number of times Paisley switched guitars: 16. Only one was a strat.
▪ Number of bars on stage: Two. With bartenders and everything. But just for the fans. The band didn’t partake.
▪ Just because an artist lands a major concert doesn’t mean they can stop hustling. Ell made sure to remind fans she had a new album and would be signing stuff after the show.
▪ Overall, the telecaster was the guitarists’ choice for the night.
▪ Lynch fills out a Bulldogs uniform nicely.
▪ If you have a cell phone at a concert and it’s visible from the stage and it has a picture of Peyton Manning on it, you will get called out. The audience will boo.
Paisley’s set list
1. Last Time for Everything
2. Old Alabama
3. Perfect Storm
5. One Beer Can
6. Crushing It
7. This is Country Music
8. Love and War
9. American Saturday Night (w/Chase Bryant)
11. I’m Still a Guy (w/ Dustin Lynch)
14. She’s Everything
16. Waiting on a Woman
17. You’ll Always Be My First (Cousin)
19. Streets of Bakersfield (Buck Owen Cover)
20. Whiskey Lullaby (w/Lindsay Ell)
21. I’m Gonna Miss Her (The Fishin’ Song)
22. Mud on the Tires