Brad Paisley headlined a four-act show at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center night, giving the crowd a full, high-energy show of hits, guitar work, and simple entertainment.
He opened with “Last Time for Everything,” a good first tune that set the pace for his set. Without any segue, he went right into one verse of “Purple Rain” — he’s a Prince fan, but this moment seemed a little forced — then morphed directly into “Old Alabama,” another smooth, high energy, car-driving tune that let Paisley show a few guitar moves.
Paisley can play the guitar, and we got a good amount of that — for some not enough. But he’s really about songs, and he ran through a slew of them, of which the audience sang to almost all. Highlights included “Online,” the country-speedy, and humorous “One Beer Can,” and the rowdier “Crushin It.”
The elaborate stage set — aaccompanied by themed video — included a bar on stage with patrons, which he integrated into his show. During “This Is Country Music,” he bent down to sign the hat of a boy. He then unplugged his guitar while the band continued, and handed his guitar to the boy in the audience. The crowd erupted. Perhaps this wonderful stunt is planned for the entire tour.
Dustin Lynch went on before Paisley, feeding off the energy already raised to a decent level by the bands before him. He sang early on his latest single, “Small Town Boy Like Me,” which brought the lower pavilion to its feet, where they stayed for his entire 45-minute set.
He followed with his hit “Seeing Red,” keeping the momentum steady and strong.
He slowed things down for a few, starting with a ballad, “Love Me or Leave Me Alone,” a song he has yet to record, he told us. “This is still in practice mode.” It was a good love song, and he built it up nice and slowly with patience. He followed with another slow one, this time strapping on an acoustic, though he was well supported by three guitarists behind him.
The two previous acts carried their own guitar parts — and Paisley is a known entity on guitar — so it was noticeable when Lynch strutted around the stage with nothing but a microphone.
The slightly reggae-thumping “Where It’s At” lifted the set into its finale, leaving the mostly-older audience ready for more.
Before him, the young Chase Bryant was a fun surprise. Landing heavy on the rock side, his power trio – bass, drums, him on guitar – pushed through a heavy set of jams, Bryant launching a few sky-high guitar solos and carrying the rhythm while singing. If stage presence is what record companies are looking for, Bryant has it. He was wonderfully cocky, struttin’ around the stage telling the audience to get up for every song, even playing a guitar solo on his back. You have to go with it — totally entertaining — though I’m sure he rubbed some the wrong way.
Lindsey Ell opened the show with a bluesy set that featured her deep voice and impressive soulful guitar work, on rhythm and lead. She was closer to rock than country, and the audience was not quite settled in when she played, but those who paid attention were treated to a nice, but brief, set.
The whole night was set back an hour after a nasty lightning storm dropped right on the park. The wind blew the rain into the pavilion, soaking outside and inside, shaking anything loose. Lawn patrons were allowed into the pavilion for shelter. The storm set the night off script, and the crowd, to its credit, stayed orderly, upbeat, and those with lawn seats returned to the lawn without any fanfare. The behavior and cooperation of SPAC management and the audience was impressive.
All in all, fans should feel they received a good night of music.