It was a big weekend for Dierks Bentley and Miranda Lambert as the two kicked off their "Locked And Reloaded" tour on Thursday in Columbia, South Carolina. Billboard had a chance to catch the show on Friday night, as the tour made a stop in Knoxville, Tenn.
The fans packed Thompson-Boling Arena at the University of Tennessee to see a pair of headliners that have not only stayed at the top of their game but have managed to raise their live shows to another level.
The tour will feature various opening acts throughout its duration, with Friday night's stop including the soulful stylings of Curb Records' Lee Brice, who kicked the music with several of his recent radio hits, such as the emotional track "I Drive Your Truck."
Next up on the bill was Bentley, who started his set with his rousing hit "Am I The Only One." From the initial response from the crowd, he wasn't the only one who wanted to have a little fun. The Capitol recording artist continued to keep up the intensity throughout his performance, and with a long history at radio -- including ten number ones -- he was able to keep the hits coming.
Some of the highlights of Bentley's performance included a high-octane performance of his most recent chart-topper, "5-1-5-0," that kept the crowd on their collective feet, as did such favorites as "Free And Easy (Down The Road I Go)," and "Feel That Fire." He did slow down the tempo on a few occasions, giving a very eloquent performance of his "Every Mile A Memory," as the video backdrop projected many of his career and personal highlights. He also tipped his hat to his critically acclaimed "Up On The Ridge" disc by performing the bluegrass-influenced title cut, and also performed his mainstream hit "Settle For A Slowdown" in an acoustic setting. His final two songs for the night showcased just how versatile he is as an artist: a rollicking jaunt through "What Was I Thinkin," his breakthrough hit from 2003, and "Home," one of the biggest musical statements he has made. However, with new material coming such as "I Hold All," we think it's a safe bet that he's only just beginning to evolve as an artist.
The same could be said for Lambert, who has only gotten better from her "On Fire" tour from last year. The three-time CMA Female Vocalist of the Year continues to exude charisma on the stage at a high level, making such hits as "Baggage Claim," "Only Prettier," and "Kerosene" qualify as must-see performances. She also played the cover card quite convincingly, giving nods to the Beatles ("Get Back") and Mountain, with her take on the classic "Mississippi Queen" being quite riveting. Lambert also possesses the ability to turn the emotion on a dime, with such evocative ballad performances as "Over You" and "The House That Built Me." From a live standpoint, one of the highlights was her "Famous in a Small Town," as the backdrop featured many references to the Tennessee Volunteers -- the definite "home team" of the area.
Both Bentley and Lambert have been perfecting their craft for a decade now and though it's a crowded field, both artists show that they deserve to be recognized for their live shows with possible nominations for the Entertainer of the Year award from the CMA, ACM, and other organizations. They have earned it.
- Country