The Killers Bring Sin City to Music City

killersnashville

(Photo by Eric Allen ©2013)

Music City met Sin City when Las Vegas rock band The Killers performed at the Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville Sunday night. Dressed in black and armed with lasers, a projection screen backdrop, and a keyboard bedecked with an illuminated lightning bolt, lead singer Brandon Flowers was on fire as he tirelessly ripped through the dynamic set like a man determined to leave his perpetual mark upon the world famous venue’s stage.

The band members fed off the sold out crowd’s zealous reaction as they delivered a 21-song set list culled from their four album discography, which included “Mr. Brightside,” and “Human,” stacked against newer hits “Here with Me,” and “Runaways.” During the concert’s progression, the evening was filled with sporadic surprises including the Johnny Cash classic “Ring of Fire,” a guest appearance by Brad Paisley, and a cover of “I Think We’re Alone Now,” which was preceded by Flowers’ proclamation, “Tiffany stole this song from Tommy James and the Shondells, but tonight we’re stealing it back.”

Although it may initially sound odd for a Las Vegas rock band fronted by a Latter-day Saint to play a gig at the Grand Ole Opry, that’s precisely what took place on an electrically charged Sunday evening in the inimitably unequalled whangdoodle that is Nashville’s beloved music scene.

By night’s end, Flowers held the engrossed audience in the palm of his hand, as thousands stood on their feet while cheering, clapping, and singing along at the top of their lungs for the duration of the virtually two-hour performance. Despite a dubiously absent rendering of the band’s revered hit “Bones,” no one exited the show with any criticisms. While the Ryman Auditorium may exclusively own the moniker “The Mother Church of Country Music,” The Killers live at the Grand Ole Opry House was nonetheless a religious experience in its own right.

© 2013 ForASong Media, LLC

Carrie Underwood Blows Away Twang Town

Carrie live

(Photo by: Eric Allen)

I was completely blown away (pun intended) by Carrie Underwood’s most recent appearance at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena. Not only was her Blown Away Tour amid the best country concerts I’ve ever seen, but the country music sweetheart’s extraordinary gig was without a doubt the best vocal performance this eager music enthusiast has ever had the pleasure of hearing in my many years of attending live shows.

The show began with a video displaying a house swept up and swirling into the air and concluding with a replica on stage, which provided a red doorway Underwood used to make her grand entrance. Dressed to the hilt in a sparkling, flowing blue and black gown (analogous to the one which adorns the diva’s most recent platinum album), Underwood emerged with a radiant smile as she waved to admiring fans and tore into her recent number one single “Good Girl.” The evening’s nearly 2-hour concert was jammed pack with greatest hits from the Grand Ole Opry member’s entire catalog, along with a healthy dose of tracks from her latest album, Blown Away, as well as a surprisingly rocking cover version of Aerosmith’s “Sweet Emotion.”

The set list was loaded with enough hits to satisfy casual fans and die-hards alike, which laudably demonstrated Underwood’s diversified catalog and growth as both an artist and songwriter. The multiple Grammy-winning vocalist’s musical arsenal tackled some hard hitting subject matter including: cheating, abuse, murder, and of course, love during the evening, all of which had the enthusiastic crowd singing along.

Halfway through the set, a portion of the stage was converted into a makeshift hot air balloon, which rotated as it hurled Underwood and her band mates through the air and over the crowd, giving everyone in the venue a bird’s eye view of the country superstar as she belted out several numbers. Underwood was later joined on stage by a surprise guest appearance from country crooner and resident comedian Brad Paisley for a version of the duo’s hit duet “Remind Me,” which caused Underwood to tear up with emotion.

Throughout the performance, various rural images (akin to Underwood’s own hometown of Checotah, Oklahoma) filled the stage’s multi-angled screens, augmenting each number with a three dimensional effect, yet never overshadowing the music or Underwood’s dominant, pitch-perfect vocals. The evening’s encore was a gut-wrenching performance of latest hit single and album title track “Blown Away” (complete with video footage of a house being destroyed by a twister as smoke and debris blew across the stage, a la a virtual tornado), after which Underwood exited into what looked like a storm shelter, then the sexy siren disappeared from view.

Way to go Carrie, as you undoubtedly made an unforgettable impact on a legion of lifetime fans (including this one) in Music City.

© 2012 Popmartzoo

Brad Paisley: ‘This Is Country Music’

Brad Paisley’s ninth studio album, This Is Country Music, is the most consistent offering from start to finish of his 12-year career. Despite numerous guest appearances (including Don Henley, Alabama, Clint Eastwood, and features duets with Carrie Underwood and Blake Shelton), the fact that Paisley is the star of the show is a true testament to his distinctive musical identity.

Starting off with the first two singles “This Is Country Music” (the previous number two hit), and “Old Alabama” (his Alabama homage and seventeenth number one single), the album immediately lives up to its name. The latter song includes snippets of some of country group Alabama’s best known hits, as well as guest vocals by band members Randy Owen, Jeff Cook and Teddy Gentry, while the title track includes such lyrics as “You’re not supposed to say the word cancer in a song/And telling folks that Jesus is the answer can rub ‘em wrong/But this is country music and we do/So turn it on and turn it up and sing along.”

The album’s tone is set by the two aforementioned hits and continues throughout, as evidenced in the Rivers Rutherford penned “A Man Don’t Have to Die,” where Paisley sings “It’s payments that you can’t make on a house that you can’t sell/See, a man don’t have to die to go to hell,” which is one of only three tracks among the 15 selections not co-written by Paisley.

One noticeable difference between this and previous Paisley albums is a seemingly conscious decision to dial down the gimmicky novelty songs he’s typically associated with, although they do make an appearance on the humorous “Tan,” the witty toe tapper “Toothbrush,” and the tongue-in-cheek duet with Blake Shelton “Don’t Drink the Water.” However, with that being said, the brief comic relief is a welcome and needed element to keep the album’s more serious themes (cancer, foreclosure, and death) in musical balance. Country music doesn’t always have to be a downer, it can also be about fun and having a good time. After all, Paisley has built a career around feel good country anthems, as well as brilliant instrumentals such as the western tribute “Eastwood,” which contains a spoken intro by Clint Eastwood himself. Longtime Paisley producer Frank Rogers helms production duties here, as he does on all of Paisley’s previous musical output; the two make a winning team without becoming predictably formulaic.

This Is Country Music wraps with the southern gospel hymn “Life’s Railway to Heaven” (previously recorded by the Carter Family, Merle Haggard, and Patsy Cline), and features exuberant background vocal harmonies provided by Marty Stuart, Sheryl Crow, and Carl Jackson, which brings the album to its close with Paisley repeating the line from the title song’s chorus, “So turn it on and turn it up and sing along.” Paisley’s latest is not just good country music, but an impressive example of today’s country at its finest.

© 2011 ForASong Media, LLC