Straight-edged Paisley shines

by Alison Bonaguro
(Special to the Tribune),
Published August 28, 2007


He's country music's consummate good boy.

So it made sense that Brad Paisley would play Chicago on a Sunday. In a world of bad boy hillbilly acts, his unaffected nature was a rare treat for the roughly 20,000 country fans who made their way to the First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre in Tinley Park on Sunday night.

Paisley doesn't drink. He rarely swears. He steers clear of scandals. And he sings about everyday life with a retrospective edge deeply rooted in guitar.

Lyrically, it would be hard to find a country artist who moves people up and down the range of emotions like Paisley does. One minute fans were laughing out loud to his current hit "Online," about the newer, better or cooler identities that are possible on MySpace. The next minute people were holding back tears during "When I Get Where I'm Going," his to-do list for life in the hereafter.

A packed pavilion and a nicely loaded lawn gave Paisley and his six-man band a dependable crowd for singing along on the familiar radio hits such as "Mud on the Tires," "Celebrity," "Ticks" and "The World." Even on the ballads, when it was just Paisley on acoustic guitar, fans sang and swayed, their beers sloshing right along with them.

And when Paisley threw an intense instrumental ("Throttleneck") into the mix, the crowd soaked up what might have been a groove buster. They were able to see a guitar virtuoso in his element.

The only part of Paisley's show that seemed out of place was the video showcase. A 24-foot wide LED screen and multiple smaller screens featured videos and animation in an attempt to add dimension to the music. But the kitschy cartoons created a distraction. Watching the screens meant taking your eyes off Paisley and the five guitars he played during the night.

Paisley brought a posse of standout tour mates. Taylor Swift, 17, whose debut album now sits at the top spot on the country charts, managed to pack her 25-minute set with her well-crafted tunes. The rising star showed a great deal of stamina despite her youth.

Before Swift, soulful Texas rocker Jack Ingram and American Idol finalist Kellie Pickler each came on stage for a quick set.

Ingram pointed out the full moon and said what was likely on everyone's mind: "It's a good night for county music, ain't it?"


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