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Brad Paisley appears right at home

Verizon Amphitheatre, Irvine, Cal., October 3, 2009

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

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Brad Paisley has long since graduated to the major leagues in country music's male vocalist rankings, so he appeared right at home while headlining this Go Country 105 radio station concert. Although Paisley's songs, as well as relaxed stage presence, have always been more than enough of a selling point, his usage of high tech lighting and video elements this time around amounted to a surprise bonus feature. Fans were left with the feeling that this was an event, based upon all the bright visuals, instead of just another stop on Paisley's summer tour.

The highlights were many, but it was especially hard to stop laughing while watching Little Jimmy Dickens and 'Whispering' Bill Anderson play guitar hero (on screen) while Paisley sang Celebrity. Not sure if it's the fact that these two men appeared so out of place with the gaming device or that they're not really big celebrities - even within country music. On a more serious note, Paisley big screen backdrop paged through a series of deceased celebrities as he sang When I Get Where I'm Going. Surprisingly, this montage ended with Patrick Swayze's image, but without a Michael Jackson photo, easily the most popular celebrity death victim of late.

Paisley performed about a third of his most recent release, "American Saturday Night," saving the technology-loving Welcome To the Future for the end. He also covered Don Henley's Boys of Summer and welcomed openers, Jimmy Wayne and Dierks Bentley, back to the stage for a loose performance of Alcohol. Paisley, who is quite the tweeter, commented about what a drunken audience this crowd was. But Paisley's visual flare at least accounted for part of that intoxication.

Dierks Bentley exemplified far less emotional range than Paisley in concert. As close as he got to something truly heartfelt was with the ballad, I Wanna Make You Close Your Eyes. But Bentley's beer-friendly Sideways was more in the singer's artistic wheelhouse. Yet what his T-shirt, which read "Spiritual Gangster," was supposed to mean is anybody's guess because Bentley is neither spiritual, nor a gangster.

Jimmy Wayne only had a half hour to work with, which wasn't nearly enough to do his music justice. His new single, a version of Hall & Oates' Philly soul Sara Smile was accurate, but hardly the sort of fine country ballad singing he's capable.