There was one thing I had to keep reminding myself Thursday night at Wells Fargo Arena: “I am at a country show.” Not because I couldn’t believe I was there, but because a Jason Aldean and Florida Georgia Line show doesn’t sound like a country show. Sure, there’s multiple references to being “country” in their songs, but with the amount of wailing guitar solos and multitude of mohawks on stage, you would have thought you were at a raucous rock show with a well-dressed audience.
Thursday night’s sold-out show was a party from the moment the lights dimmed at 7:30pm for opener Tyler Farr. Farr and his band were the most “traditional” sounding band of the night, if there is such a thing in today’s modern country. With hits like “Redneck Crazy” and “Whiskey in My Water,” Farr knows his audience.
By the time Florida Georgia Line took the stage after 8:00pm, nearly every seat in the arena was filled and they were ready to party. Luckily for the crowd, Florida Georgia Line is all about the party, as they reminded the crowd that was their intention multiple times.
Florida Georgia Line barely had a chance to let the stage at Wells Fargo Arena get cold from the last time they stopped by with Taylor Swift in November. This time around, the crowd was clearly there to see them and sing along to their still-young catalog of hits. Florida Georgia Line set the tone for the night that this show would more closely resemble a rock show than it would a country show. The band is a great example of the changing of the guard in country music. Today’s country is not your parent’s or your grandparent’s country music. This show was a clear example of it.
As far as Florida Georgia Line is concerned, it may not be too long before the Jason Aldean Night Train tour is considered a co-headlining tour with FGL. These guys are on the brink of not needing to open for the biggest acts in country and headlining their own arena shows.
The night belonged, however, to multi-platinum sensation Jason Aldean. Much like Florida Georgia Line walking on stage to Imagine Dragons, Aldean took the stage to a song by Audioslave and instantly brought the crowd to their feet with “Crazy Town.” It had been just over two years since Aldean played the Grandstand at the Iowa State Fair in 2011. He had also previously played the Val Air Ballroom in 2008.
Aldean was decked out in his usual uniform of a skin-tight plaid, short sleeve, button-down shirt and his trademark cowboy hat pulled down low. Aldean showed no signs of rust despite telling the crowd that it was his first show of 2014 after three months off the road. “This is what happens when you take 3 months off, you forget all the words,” he stated before a false start of “The Truth.”
A criticism of Aldean’s stage persona was that he wasn’t very engaging with the audience. He has certainly made great strides to fix this as he was often times chatty with the crowd and even spent an unusually large amount of time introducing his 5-piece band, which included a photo of them when they were 20 years younger. During his own introduction, Aldean proclaimed that he had “Justin Bieber hair before there was a Justin Bieber.” The mention of the teen pop star drew boos from the capacity crowd. “Hey, don’t boo Justin Bieber, he might come egg your house,” Aldean joked.
The crowd was treated to a “virtual duet” of “Don’t You Wanna Stay” with Kelly Clarkson appearing on the screens. The loud roar from the audience when Clarkson’s verses began suggested that the crowd thought she was actually there. In another “duet,” Florida Georgia Line’s Brian Kelley and Tyler Hubbard returned to the stage to sing Eric Church and Luke Bryan’s parts on “The Only Way I Know.” Aldean finished his main set with his hit, “She’s Country.” Oddly enough, it was the least country-sounding song of the entire night.
Jason Aldean is a very engaging performer. He easily commands a crowd and is clearly thankful for the people that have elevated him to the status he currently enjoys. He even knows when to poke fun at himself by joking about his successes in love (Aldean is recently divorced). At the end of the day, the sound may be rock, but a Jason Aldean show is a country show. From the many mentions of the word “country” itself, to his trademark smashing of a beer can at the end of his set, Jason Aldean is country through and through, with a touch of rock n’ roll.
JASON ALDEAN SETLIST
Take a Little Ride
Tattoos On This Town
When She Says Baby
Fly Over States
This Nothin’ Town
Don’t You Wanna Stay (with Kelly Clarkson)
Big Green Tractor
Tennessee River (Alabama Cover)
The Only Way I Know (with Florida Georgia Line)
Dirt Road Anthem
My Kinda Party