Saturday, August 27, 2011

Jason Aldean and his Asphalt Cowboys

His Kinda Party

 A measure of how badly Pittsburgh area folks wanted to see Jason Aldean (it’s been a long time since he played anywhere near here) could be seen August 26th in the sheer insanity of the traffic heading out to the venue. This is not the first time The Inky Jukebox has started a review by talking about the drive to Burgettstown, but there’s a good reason for this. The First Niagara Pavilion (which folks here usually refer to by any one of its former names — Post-Gazette Pavilion, Star Lake Amphitheater, etc.) is situated way out in the sticks, much closer to the borders of West Virginia and Ohio than to Pittsburgh itself. In fact, it always feels odd when performers talk about being in Pennsylvania because it they took a few steps to the side they wouldn’t be in Pennsylvania at all. Because of the topography (hilly), there are few options in terms of routes one can take to get there from Pittsburgh (one).

So when you start out for a 7:30 show at 4:30 in the afternoon for what should be a 40 minute drive and the highway signs say “Heavy traffic ahead: take an alternate route” the heart sinks. There is no alternate route. The Inky Jukebox is glad she filled her tank because it took four hours. One of those hours was spent at the entrance to the venue just idling on the road going absolutely nowhere because the parking lot had reached capacity and the police were deciding what to do with everyone backed up for miles. Eventually they redirected us further on to a roadhouse field. By this time it was dark, so concertgoers had to scramble through hedges and walk not only the mile back to the venue entrance but also all the way to the actual amphitheater once we got there.

Thus it is that The Inky Jukebox cannot review performances by opening acts Thompson Square and Chris Young, because she missed them. The Inky Jukebox has never seen so many human beings packed so tightly into so small a space; officially the venue’s capacity is listed at 23,000 but the DJ who spun tracks before Aldean came on said we were 25,000. Of course he said this before the thousands of folks behind The Inky Jukebox had arrived.

Was it worth it?

Sure. OK, Kinda. Aldean plays a no-nonsense set with little to none chatter in between songs; he merely moves from one mic to another singing and playing the kind of country rock he’s known for, with his axemen shredding it up on solos that sent the crowd wild. Aldean has a large catalogue of songs to pick a set list from, and though he played his big hits, there was surprisingly little from his latest album, My Kinda Party and overall it seemed like a far shorter set than most other headliners The Inky Jukebox has seen in recent years. For example, the encore consisted of a cover of Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead or Alive” followed by “She’s Country.” That’s it. 

The Inky Jukebox was expecting a segue into “Asphalt Cowboy” but no deal. One of the big hits of the night was a pseudo-duet with Kelly Clarkson on “Don’t You Wanna Stay” with Kelly appearing on the screen behind the stage for her part. It was gratifying to hear her voice kick in when expected, and the crowd sent up a huge noise when she appeared (much like when she appeared in person at Reba’s show).

"Don't You Wanna Stay"

 To end the show, Aldean popped a can of beer, and in a super-macho release of energy, shook and smashed it to create an explosion of beer over himself and anyone in the front row close enough to be baptized in a little of his Holy Rock and Roll juice. The Inky Jukebox suggests that if Aldean wants to play with the big boys (and he certainly can if he wants to), then he needs to deliver a longer set and spend more time on the walkway out in the crowd (he performed only one song there). Also, opening a show by yelling out the tour stop's name (Pittsburgh!) makes it sounds like it's all become routine and only assures the crowd of one thing: that you looked it up on the back of a tour shirt before stepping onstage. 

On the very long trudge back to the car, The Inky Jukebox overheard a very drunken half naked chap slur to his friends “You know, it took me four hours to get here; I spent a fucken $150 on a ticket — and you know, I STILL had a fucken good time.” Despite everything, that about sums it up.

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