Monday, 28 February 2011 17:18
Brad Paisley brought his H2O tour to the Amway Center in Orlando last week for one of the last shows of the tour. Opening the show were new artist Jerrod Niemann and former Hootie & The Blowfish singer Darius Rucker.
Story and photos by John Davisson
Jerrod Niemann played first, in front of a giant banner with his name. He played a very short set that featured his hits. Darius Rucker played a set that featured a mix of his recent country hits and some classic Hootie songs. Darius played guitar on a few songs, but mostly he was just a singer and let his band (which had a pedal steel player and another guitarist) handle the music. The band was good at country touches, adding a different backdrop for Darius songs than usual.
The Hootie covers were often re-arranged, although “Only Wanna Be With You” was still a highlight. “Hold My Hand” was slowed down and done in a different tempo that made it almost unrecognizable, while “Let Her Cry was a sparse arrangement that was overly dramatic. A cover of Hank Jr.'s “Family Tradition” turned into a rowdy call and response with the country fans. The closer was a strange pick though: Prince's “Purple Rain.”
Following the artist formerly known as Hootie, it was Brad Paisley's show and he closed it out big time, with huge video production all around him that sometimes showed footage created for the tour and sometimes showed close-ups of the action onstage and in the audience. He also has plenty of big country hits peppered throughout the set and it was great hearing them live.
Brad made use of the large arena floor, and the stage which had a ramp in the middle and ramps on either side that went down to floor-level and allowed Brad do travel onto the floor. He even performed a solo acoustic set from a small platform at the soundboard on the opposite side of the floor from the main-stage. But it was his guitar playing that I enjoyed the most; I love his twangy guitar style and he has chops to spare. That was actually a problem with the video production, as the video crew seemed to hone in on his face and not his guitar. I would rather see what he is doing on the fretboard more often, as he has a unique style. I did see him incorporate some sweep-picking into his twang, which was interesting, but, overall, not enough guitar on the video screens in my opinion.
Still it was a great show and a great arena production. Country concerts have really vamped up lately (although there's often a little too much emphasis on the video walls, which can sometimes be distracting from the live performance). The production works in amphitheatres as well as arenas, and it is often the country performers that are attracting the huge crowds lately as rock music has become more subdued. Although Brad's tour is ending, I'm sure he'll be back on the circuit within a year.
Meanwhile there are big tours by Sugarland (don't miss my last review), Kenney Chesney, Keith Urban and Taylor Swift coming through the state soon with equally big productions.