Brad Paisley switches guitars more than his friend and perennial Country Music Association awards co-host Carrie Underwood changes outfits during a concert. Maybe twice as much. And that’s, um, saying a lot.
We stopped counting somewhere around 20 times.
No problem, though. When you can play a guitar with the finesse he does, go for it. He is almost as well known for his picking as for his singing. And fortunately for the 5,665 fans in attendance for the Central Arkansas stop of his “Weekend Warrior” World Tour on April 12 at Verizon Arena, he did a lot of both. The show, which also featured Dustin Lynch, Chase Bryant and Lindsay Ell, provided a great time and terrific music.
Paisley has so many songs that can put you in a good mood, it’s really kind of hard to pick a favorite. But the clever “I’m Gonna Miss Her (The Fishin’ Song)” has to be up near the top. I smile every time I hear it, and I think that was true of most of the concertgoers, almost all of whom sang along to that one. It’s classic Paisley.
“Mud on the Tires,” “Ticks,” “Celebrity,” “Online” and “I’m Still a Guy” all have to be near the top of the list as well. They’re songs he’ll probably need to always include in concerts no matter how many more years he performs. He brought Lynch out to sing along on “I’m Still a Guy,” and the two of them hammed it up on the hit about ladies trying to make their men more respectable. Likewise, he teamed with Bryant on a revved-up “American Saturday Night,” the song that celebrates the American melting pot. And he didn’t leave Ell out, bringing her out for a guitar-playing showdown as he finished “She’s Everything.”
He’s had a lot of songs featuring outstanding lyrics, but he’s also happy to let his guitar do the talking — flawlessly — amid many of his songs with some incredible note-bending action on one of his many colorful guitars. And as energetically as ever.
Because we prefer our country music to sound like country music, it’s a pleasure to hear the fiddle and steel guitar during Paisley’s shows, and it’s appropriate that one of his numbers is “This Is Country Music.”
Along the way, he teased the crowd with a number of Razorback-related lines. “It’s great to be with all you fightin’ pigs,” he told the crowd. “This is the only state I can say that in and not make people really mad.” And, after bragging on some great barbecue he’d had the last time he played Central Arkansas, “You’re probably the only college team that eats its mascot.”
Even in a long, impressive set of hits, you know Paisley’s gonna save room for “Alcohol,” which he used as his encore. Like so many of his hits, it contains more than a little truth as well as plenty of funny lines. The rousing version Thursday night with Lynch, Bryant and Ell was a fitting end to a grand, good-time show.
Paisley’s playlist is so big and so recognizable that he can’t work everything in. We were expecting “Whiskey Lullaby,” but he didn’t include it this time around. We consider that heartbreaker to be one of the best country songs ever, but leaving it out of this show still didn’t leave us feeling let down. This was maybe the fourth time we’ve seen him in concert, and we’ve come to realize that he never disappoints. Paisley is witty and clever and self-deprecating, but he’s also an accomplished, skillful entertainer. That was all evident Thursday evening.
Lynch, who can give Luke Bryan a run for his money in the tight-fittin’ jeans category, gave a pretty good clue about his engaging nine-song set when he started out with “Hell of a Night.” In a performance that was over all too soon, he also delighted with “Small Town Boy,” “Seein’ Red” and the heartfelt “Cowboys and Angels” — inspired by his grandparents — with lines like “I’ve got boots and she’s got wings, I’m hell on wheels and she’s heavenly.”
Bryant’s big, powerful voice serves him well, outshining even his hip hairstyle for which he took some good-natured ribbing from Paisley. “Little Bit of You” should probably have been an even bigger hit than it was back in 2015, and he also satisfied with “Change Your Name,” “Take It On Back” and “Pink Houses.” We’re looking forward to hearing more from both him and Lynch as their careers progress. Ell opened the show with her rock-heavy version of country, highlighted by her first Top 20 hit, “Criminal.”