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Brad Paisley deserves new title

Comcast Center, Mansfield, Mass., June 3, 2012

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

Other recent concert reviews
It might be a heavy honor to bestow on someone, but the late Chet Atkins doubtlessly would have pronounced Brad Paisley a Certified Guitar Hero (CGP) as Atkins was called.

Paisley also might be considered one of the best country performers out there, and one of the ultra few (besides George Strait first and foremost and Alan Jackson) who hew to a far more traditional country line than most of their compadres. His great playing, excellent songs, sense of humor both in talking and lyrically, along with a definitive serious side with social commentary plus a heavy graphics flavor to the staging all contributed to an excellent night of music.

There's a lot to consider in a Paisley show. Perhaps apart from Keith Urban and Vince Gill, no country guitar player out there can touch Paisley. In fact, his intro made it clear how important the guitar is to him. In neon white lights, an oversized guitar lit up the stage with the silhouette of Paisley next to it. Paisley picked it up, and the concert was on with Camouflage.

Paisley demonstrated time and again his guitar skills. He needn't have been fast (although he most definitely was on the instrumental Warp Speed) or overly fancy. His exact, non-rote playing often was marked by a steely, often twangy structure to his playing. And since he loves to play (along with his band), he let the songs extend. If you were looking to hear songs exactly like they were on the recorded version, this was not the concert for you.

The 100-minute show was filled with a lot of hits (and a bunch not even played, including his recent duet with Carrie Underwood, Remind Me) showcasing the various sides that make Paisley the artist that he is.

The jocular side of Paisley is often pointed cited, but there was also quite a serious side. Welcome to the Future resonated big time about accepting the changes in our culture from technology to racial relations and going with the flow. This was one standout song with a lot of depth to it (and a heavy dose of steely guitar).

Celebrity remained funny, but there's also a lot of social commentary there for Paisley, a self-described "semi-famous person." The song poked fun at the over-the-top celebrities with Paisley knocking himself through a series of skits and newspaper headlines on a backing screen. Paisley was depicted with a huge head in the backing video. Eventually, someone from Paisley's crew came onstage with the head, slapping hands with the fans.

Whiskey Lullaby is perhaps the saddest song Paisley ever recorded - about a man drinking himself to death. Instead of Alison Krauss as the duet partner, The Band Perry, which preceded Paisley, came out. Kimberly Perry acquitted herself well in the Krauss role, although there probably isn't anyone out there with her vocal sweetness and sadness.

Paisley knew how to alternate between sad and funny with such material as Working on a Tan from "This is Country Music," I'm Still a Guy, Ticks, Online and I'm Gonna Miss Her.

The graphics played an important role in fleshing out the music. In the past, this has been a bit over the top, almost dwarfing the music. With lasers and objects on the screen, Paisley came close, but most of the time, the footage featured material that meshed well with the material.

There always has been a tremendous amount to like about Paisley since he started his career, and he has only enhanced his status since. He is far more than a C.G.H.

The Band Perry has made big strides since the last time they were at the same venue. Lead singer Kimberly Perry has developed a lot of stage presence. While she didn't show great vocal range, she has progressed to the point of appearing far more natural and comfortable on stage, something apparent from the second she set foot on stage.

Brothers Reid and Neil Perry play a backing role to their sister with Neil taking over lead vocals on a portion of an engaging cover of Queen's Fat Bottomed Girls.

The band's time on stage was short - about 40 minutes - but they made the most of it before a very enthusiastic crowd. Hit singles will do that for you.

Easton Corbin opened the night with an extremely short 6-song, 25-minute outing. He tended to mine the same territory, which falls into the traditional vein. He played a few hits (A Little More Country Than that, Roll With It), a few new songs (his current single Lovin' You Is Fun and the title track of his next disc All Over the Road, which showed more depth) and that didn't leave a lot of time to extend himself.