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From the Country Standard Time Archives

Brad Paisley: natural charm comes through

Universal Amphitheatre, Universal City, Cal., Sept. 27, 2002

By Dan MacIntosh

UNIVERSAL CITY, CA - The lights went down, the sound of a motorboat filled the arena, then Brad Paisley appeared singing Jimmie Rodgers' "In The Jailhouse Now" along with his band from the deck of a fishing boat. But starting from the very back of the stage like this only highlighted how distant and adrift Paisley first appeared during this his first large arena headlining tour.

His un-comfort level was further compounded when he gave up his patented paisley-colored guitar to sing the ballad "Who Needs Pictures" just three songs in. He looked like a lonesome party guest who didn't quite know what to do with his nervous hands. It wasn't until he could pick up his ax again and let loose on the fast-picking "Two Feet Of Topsoil" that he appeared to find his confidence and finally arrive.

Paisley is at his best when he's showing off his guitar prowess, as he did later when trading licks with special guest Albert Lee on The Hag's "Workin' Man Blues," or when it's just Paisley and acoustic guitar and the audience. His mid-set unplugged portion included the hilarious new "Little Moments Like That," his now familiar cigar song and a quick take on "The Old Rugged Cross," which he pre-announced as his favorite "II" track. During these memorable moments, you almost forgot you were in a large hall as Paisley's natural charm made it all feel that much more intimate.

The evening's two opening acts, on a package called the "CMT Most Wanted Live" tour, presented a couple of hard acts Paisley to follow. Shannon Lawson's bluegrass-inspired modern country came off far more natural than it did on his overly slick debut album. His banjo-led reworking of Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get It On" was daring, but it also worked. Steve Azar fought through horrible sound problems that totally cut out the vocals on his opening number, but singer/songwriter eventually won over the audience with his sincere Springsteen/Petty/Earle inspired songs.

Each of these three singers are young and good looking, just the way CMT likes em. But because they all write and sing so well, you could have enjoyed this show just as much with your eyes closed.