Jason Aldean has come a long way from playing bars in his home state of Georgia and this is not lost on him. During his sold-out show at Madison Square Garden Saturday (March 2) he looked back at his roots.
"My first song came out in 2005 and I've been on the road pretty much nonstop since 2005 and this is the first time I ever stepped foot in Madison Square Garden," he told the crowd. "Long before I started playing places like this I grew up playing a lot of really small bars. Back in those days I was in high school and I looked like this right here."
As a photo displayed overhead of Aldean in 1994 while he prefaced his new single "1994," he joked about his look.
"Tommy Hilfiger shirt and a Justin Bieber haircut."
A lot has changed for Aldean since 1994. He's ditched the Hilfiger shirts for flannel and his success has skyrocketed. A three-time ACM Entertainer of the Year nominee, Aldean's show was a hot ticket for tri-state area country fans and sold out in 10 minutes. It turns out he was just as excited about the show as they were.
"The Big Apple. I've gotta be honest with you, we've had this show circled on our calendar for quite a while. So thank you guys so much for making our first show at Madison Square Garden sold-out. We appreciate it so much!"
His 80-minute set spanned his diverse catalogue and had the Garden dancing along through it all. Rock heavy tracks like "Crazy Town," "Tattoos On This Town," and "She's Country" showed Aldean's edgy side with gritty guitar, wavering pedal steel and heart pounding percussion. It was his ballads though, that set him apart.
"Don't You Wanna Stay," his duet with Kelly Clarkson, impressed and had the crowd screaming when a hologram of Clarkson appeared side stage. Their duet was so convincing it was as if she shared the stage with him in real life.
Meanwhile, emotional track "The Truth" showed his soft side as did "Night Train." The title track off his latest album and name of his tour, the backdrop engulfed Aldean in a sea of stars and for a moment the Garden was transformed into a back road in the moonlight.
"I grew up just a little bit away from here in the state of Georgia. When I was a teenager I wasn't really sure what people in New York City did to blow off steam but where I'm from you go find a big ass field somewhere, drink a lot beers, some music," he said. "My point is you had to find ways to entertain yourself and that's what this is what this next song is about. It's called 'This Nothing Town.'"
The track had the crowd raising their beer cups saluting Aldean in approval.
While his hologram duet with Clarkson had the most screams of the night, "Dirt Road Anthem" was a close contender. The energetic song had everyone rapping along word for word and dancing in the aisles, which Aldean later said is how every one of his shows should be. As his set neared an end with the appropriate "My Kinda Party," it was evident that this is just why his fans keep coming back for more.