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. 

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