Review Blast: 2010 Fall Concert Series

Since I’ve been extremely busy with school and work these past few months, I’ve been slacking on reviews. So this week look for a few Review Blasts that include small reviews of recent concerts I’ve attended, singles, and albums. Also make sure you check back last this week for some more talk about next week’s CMA awards.

Arizona has had one of the best fall concert series that I’ve seen in quite sometime. Many of country’s biggest tours have hit the Grand Canyon state including Brad Paisley’s H20 Tour, Zac Brown Band’s 2010 tour, Rascal Flatt’s tour, and Carrie Underwood’s Play On tour. I was lucky enough to get to attend all four of these concerts and here are my quick reviews.

H2O Tour 2010: Brad Paisley featuring Darius Rucker, Justin Moore, Easton Corbin, Steel Magnolia, and Josh Thompson
CMA Entertainer of the Year nominee brought his H2O tour to Arizona’s Cricket Wireless Pavilion and the tour as a whole did not disappoint. The country music started early in the afternoon on the Waterworld Plaza Stage with Josh Thompson. Thompson delivered a solid set that included hits “Beer on the Table” and his latest single, “Way Out Here.” Thompson was followed by country’s newest traditionalist, Easton Corbin. Easton was the small stage’s highlight as he played through some of his songs off his debut album like “Just Can’t Love You Back,” “Don’t Ask Me About a Woman,” “A Lot to Learn About Livin’,” and “The Way Love Looks” as well as his chart-topping singles, “Roll With It” and “A Little More Country Than That.” Duo Steel Magnolia capped off the small stage’s performances with a set that included hits “Keep on Lovin’ You,” and “Just By Being You” as well as a cover of Johnny and June Carter Cash’s hit, “Jackson.”

Over on the main stage, Justin Moore kicked off the night with a decent set that included hits “Backwoods,” “How I Got to Be This Way,” and his number one smash, “Small Town U.S.A.” The audience seemed bigger during Easton Corbin’s set than it did for Moore’s set which make me wonder why Easton wasn’t the main stage’s opener. Following Justin was Darius Rucker who included many of his country hits and album cuts off his album, Learn to Live, as well as throwing in several Hootie and the Blowfish songs. Rucker did a fantastic job at warming up the crowd for Paisley by singing all his country singles as well as his latest hit, “Come Back Song.” Rucker ended his set with a cover of Prince’s classic, “Purple Rain.”

Brad Paisley opened his headlining set with “Water” and ran through nearly every smash hit he’s ever released from early hits like “Wrapped” and “Mud on the Tires” to current songs like “American Saturday Night” and “Welcome to the Future.” He was joined onstage by a virtual Alison Krauss for this hit “Whiskey Lullaby” and Dierks Bentley even made a small cameo on the large screens behind Paisley. Paisley ran through the crowd to a diving board shaped stage near the lawn to perform his nostalgic hit, “Letter to Me.” He had all the couples dancing and singing along to slow ballads like “She’s Everything” and “Then.” Paisley ended the night with the usual set closers, “Ticks” and “Alcohol” which everyone on the tour helped perform and even included a strange onstage cameo by Steven Seagall.

This was one heck of a show that proved to be a bang for your buck considering some lawn seats were on sale for just $10.

Breaking Southern Ground Tour 2010 featuring Zac Brown Band
Personally, I’ve never been a big fan of the Zac Brown Band until they released their latest single, “As She’s Walking Away.” So when the opportunity arose to be able to see them in concert, I initially declined. However, when the CMA nominations came out and ZBB was nominated for Entertainer of the Year, I knew I had to attend since this could be first time I’ve seen all five Entertainer nominees in a single year. However, I was soon wishing I could get a refund of my $40 during their concert.

The night started with a couple of unknown, non-country bands that left the enthusiastic crowd really confused about why they were even there. I even caught myself asking if I was still at a country show. Once they openers ended, it was time for Zac Brown Band to take the stage. They tried to build the suspense by showing an intro video that went way too long (it was about 15 minutes of them doing nonsense acts). Once they finally hit the stage, they delivered a set that was very up and down and included major hits “Free,” “Highway 20 Ride,” and “Toes.” The band also threw in their cover of the Charlie Daniels Band’s “Devil Went Down to Georgia.” They ended the night with “Chicken Fried” and failed to return for an encore. The biggest complaint I heard from most people was that some of the band’s instrumental breaks were far too long, one in particular lasted about 15 minutes and consisted of one guitar. I get that they are great musicians but turning each 3 and a half minute song into a 10 minute song isn’t the way to go about proving it. I don’t understand how they were included in the Entertainer field but they have no chance at winning. This show gets the unfortunate honor of being the worst of 2010.

Nothing Like This Tour featuring Rascal Flatts, Kellie Pickler, and Chris Young
Rascal Flatts has always been a big draw in Arizona and their recent stop in Phoenix was no exception. The night started with Chris Young delivering a fantastic set that was way too short. He managed to perform hits like “Gettin’ You Home,” “The Man I Want to Be,” and his latest single, “Voices.” He also threw in album favorites like “Beer or Gasoline” and “Raining Night in Georgia.” Young was followed by country bombshell Kellie Pickler who opened her set with “Best Days of Your Life.” It was painfully obvious that Pickler wasn’t feeling to good because she came out with no makeup on and her hair tied into a messy ponytail. Throughout the night she kept apologizing for her voice citing allergies as the reason she wasn’t 100%. Nevertheless, she sang through her hits like “Red High Heels,” the somber “I Wonder,” and her recent release, “Making Me Fall In Love.” She also included a cover of her idol, Dolly Parton’s “Jolene.”

Once Pickler was finished, Gary, Joe Don, and Jay (also known as Rascal Flatts) burst onto the stage and delivered a solid headlining set. They included hits from the past ten years like early favorites “Prayin’ for Daylight,” “I’m Movin’ On,” and “These Days.” They also included newer classics like “Why Wait,” “Unstoppable,” “Bob that Head,” “Mayberry,” and “Bless the Broken Road.” Throughout the show, the guys made it crystal clear that they were excited to be entering their tenth year in the music industry and chose to use this tour to celebrate it. They promised to deliver hits from every corner of their catalog and they delivered. However, their setlist was poorly arranged because they loaded the front two-thirds of the show with fast, rocking songs and saved power ballads like “Stand,” “What Hurts the Most,” and “Every Day” for the last third of the show. The group ended the night with their smash hit, “Summer Nights.” I’ve seen Rascal Flatts several times and I always feel like I see the same show every year. I think they need to switch things up for their upcoming tours to avoid being repetitive.

Play On Tour featuring Carrie Underwood, Billy Currington and Sons of Sylvia
Carrie Underwood has been one of the biggest female superstars of the decade and she proved why during her Play On  Tour stop in Phoenix. The night began with the trio of brothers, Sons of Sylvia. They delivered an interesting rock flavored set that showed off their musicianship and their vocal talents. It’s clear that since they aren’t exactly country, they were given the opening slot in large part to their duet with Carrie, “What Can I Say.”

The trio was followed by country hearthrob Billy Currington who opened his set with his recent smash, “That’s How Country Boys Roll.” Currington showed the crowd that he’s more than just a pretty boy by performing hits like “Pretty Good at Drinkin’ Beer,” “I Got a Feeling,” “Must Be Doin’ Something Right,” and “People are Crazy.” He ended his set with his smash hit, written by Luke Bryan, “Good Directions.” It’s interesting to wonder whether or not Billy really feels comfortable on stage because he mainly just stood in one spot the entire night and rarely visited the sides of the stage until he was walking off stage. Still, his set was fairly solid and well put together.

Headliner Carrie Underwood took the stage to perform her recent hit, “Cowboy Casanova,” to open the show. In numerous interviews about this tour, Carrie has always said that she wanted to go big and pull off all the stops and she didn’t disappoint. She rose from under the massive stage on a couch while performing “Casanova” and made sure she utilized the elevation changes throughout the night. She continued performing songs like “Quitter,” “I Know You Won’t,” and “Wasted” before she went backstage for a quick costume change. She returned to the stage to sit on a swing that lifted her above the stage while she sang “Just a Dream.” Underwood powered through nearly all her singles including “Temporary Home,” “So Small,” and “All American Girl.” The highlight of her set was the powerful medley of “Jesus, Take the Wheel” and the gospel classic, “How Great Thou Art” which resulted in a huge standing ovation for the three time CMA Female Vocalist of the Year.

Carrie threw in numerous gimmicks like riding above the crowd in the back of a pickup truck to sing “Country Roads” and “This Time.” Underwood was joined onstage by opener the Sons of Sylvia to perform their duet, “What Can I Say.” Carrie ended her main set with “Last Name” and then performed an encore of “Before He Cheats” and “Songs Like This.” This was, at the time, my favorite concert of 2010 and proved that Carrie was no doubt snubbed of an Entertainer nomination. However, I think she’ll get one eventually if she continues to perform shows like this she did this year.

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