We wouldn’t be the first person to point out the similarities between the country music of today and the arena rock of yesteryear. Much like arena rockers from the '70s, today’s country stars travel with huge caravans of tour buses and semi-trucks lugging large crews and elaborate productions with them. And they attract rowdy, hard-drinking crowds.
Last night during a rocking, high-energy 90-minute set at Blossom Music Center, singer-guitarist Dierks Bentley, who looked like an alt-rocker in skinny black jeans and a vintage T-shirt from U2’s Unforgettable Fire tour, brought that point home once again during his set. He performed from atop a massive three-tiered stage that featured a giant drum riser so tall that it looked something from a Motley Crue tour. You can see a slideshow from the concert here
Bentley opened with the banjo-driven bluegrass number “Up on the Ridge” but segued into the poppy sing-a-long “Free and Easy (Down the Road I Go)” and quickly had the crowd of about 16,000 on its feet, singing along, beers hoisted high in the air. Bentley then practically rapped his way through “Tip It On Back” and “5-1-5-0” before slowing things down for the ballad “Say You Do.”
“There’s nothing like playing Blossom,” he said at one point. “I cherish playing here.”
During one segment, he and band ventured out to a satellite stage set up near the soundboard to perform a cover of the Eagles’ tune “Take It Easy,” for which opening acts Randy Houser and Cam joined him, and “Freedom,” a song from his forthcoming album, Black
. The latter featured a terrific bluesy jam at its conclusion as the Bentley and Co. made their back to the main stage without missing a single note. By the time Bentley launched into his new single, the groovy, Jack Johnson-like “Somewhere on a Beach,” it had started to rain. But even that couldn't put a damper on things.
Openers Randy Houser, Cam and Tucker Beathard all turned in terrific sets to start the show off. Beathard and his scruffy bandmates who looked like they could be auto mechanics played so early that most fans hadn’t made their way to the pavilion yet. But that didn’t stop him from delivering a rough-around-the-edges set that featured bluesy guitar solos that had more in common with Southern rock than contemporary country.
Up-and-coming singer Cam got her start by writing songs for the likes of Miley Cyrus, but don’t hold that against her. She showed off the range of her material during a 30-minute set that veered from pretty ballads such as “Burning House” to dramatic anthems like “Runaway Train,” the latter of which had elements of Rumours
-era Fleetwood Mac, albeit with twangy guitars.
Stocky singer-guitarist Randy Houser has so many hits, he could have practically headlined the show. He started his set with “We Went,” a rowdy rocker about being on the run from the law, an his terrific five-piece band really cut loose on the song. The husky-voiced guy didn’t let up during his 50-minute set. By the time he left the stage with a Moscow mule in hand, he was drenched in sweat.