Bentley's show began with a few loud ones. The anthemic "Burning Man" was followed by "Up on the Ridge," which was arranged far more bluegrass-y (and much better) on the last tour, but was performed closer to a rocker this time out. Then, after singing the lighthearted "Somewhere On A Beach," came Bentley's only other clear performance misstep. Along with two additional drummers, Bentley pounded out his ode to females with "Woman, Amen." One might call this newfound live arrangement his 'Imagine Dragon-ization' of it; it was so percussion heavy, in fact, Bentley nearly beat all the life out of it. Unfortunately, Bentley severely devalued one of the new album's best tracks tonight.
With that said, though, the rest of this satisfying concert was all highlights. He sang the determined "I Hold On," the audience sing-along "5-1-5-0" and the life-appreciating "Living," which highlighted many of Bentley's strengths. He can be dead serious ("I Hold On," "Living"), but silly and just plain fun ("5-1-5-0"), too.
Next, Bentley brought out show-opener Tenille Townes for "Different for Girls," and it was sure good to see this song (originally a duet with Elle King) sung live with a talented female partner. Bentley then performed "The Mountain," before he moved to the back stage for a medley that included "Say You Do." When he returned to the mainstage, he brought out the other opener, Jon Pardi, to sing Dwight Yoakam's great honky tonk lament, "Guitars, Cadillacs."
Bentley closed out the night in a party mood, beginning with "What Was I Thinkin'" and "Sideways." Bentley could have easily just performed the complete "The Mountain," and it would have been a fulfilling concert. His fans would never have forgiven him, though. Instead, he filled his set with A-list songs which - with a few exceptions - were performed exceptionally.
Pardi preceded Bentley with a set that included fan favorites, like "Head Over Boots" and "Dirt on My Boots," as well as a few fine new ones. The best of these fresh songs was "Ain't Always a Cowboy," a breakup song that smartly utilizes old west terminology to express a contemporary separation.
Although Townes was only given a short time to impress this likely impatient arena audience, she made the best of it with a heartfelt cover of U2's "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For," as well as the socially relevant "Somebody's Daughter."
This was an especially cold Southern California night, but many of the female attendees still lined up outside the venue shivering in extra short daisy dukes. Inside, though, the music was nearly perfectly appropriate for country-loving music fans.