Opening with ‘Mud on the Tires’, (incidentally one of my fav Rockband tracks), was a good move and Brad Paisley’s only UK live date this year was one of the best shows I have seen for ages (and I’m not even a big Country fan).
Despite selling out the huge O2 it’s clear from the start Brad was relishing the freedom of being outside the US where he could mix up his set and dipped into many of his 9 records including ‘Long Sermon’ from his 1999 debut ‘Who needs Pictures’.
‘This is Country Music’ is Brad’s latest record and this is Country Music ‘Hollywood style’. With white Stetson and even whiter teeth lighting up the huge screens behind and to the side of the O2 stage, at times the show is so slick it’s like watching a video of a live show.
Like all good country singers Brad’s popularity comes from the connection his audience feel towards him and it’s refreshing to hear him sing lyrics that do what they say on the tin.
There are no pretensions or metaphors to his words, if he croons about ‘Waiting on a woman’, or his ‘Love affair with water’ on ‘Water’ that’s what he’s talking about. They are heartfelt and sincere but don’t go any deeper, and somehow they resonate more because of their simplistic nature.
Humour plays a big part too and the West Virginia born boy even (badly) attempts an English accent much to the amusement of the O2 crowd.
It’s reassuring to know even big ‘Country’ stars have problems. Brad ponders “I love my wife, but I also love fishing. What am I to do?”
During the solo part of his show, and sat in the middle of the crowd, we find the solution when he plays ‘I’m gonna miss her’ (the fishing song).
Brad Paisley is no ‘American Idol’ type star though, and he can really play. His heavy twanging and intricate picking come from a man as much in love with his custom Crook Telecaster guitar as his fishing rod.
Special mention must go to his backing musicians ‘The Drama Kings’, especially Justin Williamson on fiddle and Randle Currie on Steel Guitar, good old boys indeed.
On ‘Welcome to the future’, it feels strange hearing a country and western act sing about the ‘Internet’ and ‘Pacman on his phone’, but Brad is part of that new breed in Country music, moving the genre forward and attracting new fans while respectfully tipping his 10 gallon hat to its roots and his predecessors.
After two hours and 22 songs Brad had barely broken sweat when he was joined onstage by someone else used to playing these big arenas Rolling Stone, Ronnie Wood. The pair belted out ‘Let The Good Times Roll’ before support act (the excellent Hootie, or is it Blowfish?) Darius Rucker joined them onstage for a rousing version of Brad’s Grammy nominated track ‘Alcohol’.
This is fun time, beer drinking, shit kicking, falling in love, good old fashioned 2011 Country Music and Brad Paisley does it better than anyone.
Bottom Pic by Ben Enos.
Top Pic by Graham Hosking