Sunday, June 23, 2013

Chesney / Church: How Forever Feels

Saved two months
Bought a little diamond
Tonight’s the night
Feels like perfect timing

“She said yes! She said yes!”

The boys of summer

After seven consecutive years playing Heinz Field, Kenny Chesney is right when he says that attending his shows has become a summer tradition. The 58,000 fans who sang along to every last word all appeared to have made that tradition theirs.

It’s just as well that they sang along, because it didn’t seem as though Chesney’s mic was working all that well — it picked up the upper register of the choruses well enough, but the verses suffered intermittent loss all night. The Inky Jukebox has attended three Chesney shows, and this time, the sound balance favored the guitars so much that every performer’s vocal suffered.

This technical difficulty didn’t stop the love, however. The last time The Inky Jukebox saw the Eli Young Band play, we had our hands on the stage. They have since had enough hits to bring the pre-show audience alive. 

Eric Church tore it up, delivering a blistering set that translated admirably to such a vast venue. He seemed genuinely taken aback by the roar of voices singing along.

Chesney did what he does best: drop a solid two-hour set crammed to the gills with hit after sing-a-long hit. Behind him, a supermoon rose from the Pittsburgh skyline in an arc to center stage, providing an enormous celestial spotlight.

These boots / Have counted off many a band...
Halfway through his set, a young man seated two rows down from The Inky Jukebox proposed to his pink-hatted girlfriend, and she said yes. Much high-fiving with everyone around him ensued, he wearing a giant smile and declaring how happy he is. The good spirits defined the crowd, many of whom had been partying for days in advance of the show, in boats parked 13-deep outside the stadium at the head of the Ohio.

Sitting outside in the heat at midnight, having stopped for a soft-serve on the way home, an old man saw The Inky Jukebox’s hat and asked if we’d been to the Kenny Chesney show. The Inky Jukebox said yes. “Lucky dogs,” he replied.

He was right.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Brad Paisley: Total Pro

His Southern WV / PA Comfort Zone

Brad Paisley gets up close and personal

The Inky Jukebox has been to many, many live shows over the years. Memories of them tend to be a vague blur. But I can recall in sharp detail the very first one I ever attended: it was Kris Kristofferson at the Royal Albert Hall, and I was ten years old. Perhaps it was so memorable because it was a grown-up outing, or because the venue was so impressive. But mostly, I think it was because of the physical sensation of feeling the music resonate in my whole body, rather than just hearing it with my head. And the volume: live music is LOUD.

Thus it was that I wanted my own children to experience that world-changing sensation at a similar age. This weekend, I took my son to see Brad Paisley for his ninth birthday. He’s a music fan, and he’s learning to play guitar – a ¾ size Fender. And he loves Brad Paisley.

If you’re going to bring a child to a show, then Paisley is a good bet: he puts on an entertainment extravaganza, and it’s all family-friendly. His use of the video screen as an interactive tool is better than anyone in the business, and makes other acts’ generic imagery seem like it belongs to a bygone age. My son’s mind was blown again and again by the visual humor and trickery that accompanied and enhanced the songs. When, at the end of the set, Paisley lets his guitar drop into what looks like a water tank, he gasped; moments later Paisley himself leaped in, appearing to splash. It’s a neat bit of showmanship that doesn’t grow tired even if you’ve seen him do it before.

Three Brads
Paisley knows how to keep a crowd engaged, and at this venue – the amphitheater of his youth – he understands that moving out into the crowd to be closer to those on the lawn is important. Sure enough, when he moved to a small stage just 20 yards from where we stood, it gave his acoustic set added resonance. My son was thrilled that he could actually SEE him up close. Unlike some big name performers, he doesn’t seem afraid of the crowd. He also peppers his show with localisms that raise huge cheers; there’s no “Hello Cleveland” moments here.

If there’s one performer that my son loves more than Paisley, it’s Carrie Underwood, his awards-show hosting partner. Expecting to see her appear on the big screen for her part on the duet “Remind Me,” we were delighted that she actually appeared onstage in the flesh, and boy, did she sing her guts out.

If that wasn’t enough, Paisley had a genuinely astonishing special guest liven up part of the show: six year-old Avery Molek, the drumming prodigy, came onstage to deliver a blistering rendition of “Hot For Teacher” on the concert kit with the full band. The Inky Jukebox got it on tape. Want to impress a nine year-old wanna-be rock star? That’s the way to ignite ambition right there.