Jason Aldean’s “Burn It Down” tour gives the singer a chance to do things in a big way – and he took full advantage of that on Saturday (July 19) night at the Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati, Ohio. With a bill that saw a possible trio of nominees for the upcoming CMA Entertainer of the Year prize, Aldean clearly adheres to the rule that you’re only as good as those around you. If that’s the case, Aldean is pretty damn good these days.
The afternoon began with an opening performance from Columbia’s Tyler Farr, who showed why radio has made him one of the most played newcomers of the past year. He gave fans a taste of his rough-edged vocals, delighting the crowd with performances of his singles “Whiskey In My Water” and “Redneck Crazy.”
On stage next was the rock and roll swagger of Brian Kelley and Tyler Hubbard – collectively known as Florida Georgia Line. The Republic Nashville duo hit the stage in a blaze of high-octane glory with “It’z Just What We Do,” and kept up the intensity with a set list that included radio hits such as “Stay,” “Round Here,” and “Get Your Shine On.” The two did slow things down briefly – to perform their earthy current hit “Dirt,” and shined the cover spotlight on Alabama’s “I’m In A Hurry (And Don’t Know Why),’ before closing their set with their calling card, “Cruise.” Though critical acclaim has not been their strong suit, the capacity crowd at the home of the Cincinnati Reds didn’t seem to include many critics, and if the old show business saying “Leave Them Wanting More” is true, Kelley and Hubbard did exactly just that – leaving every ounce of energy on the stage.
Next up was special guest Miranda Lambert. Before the show, Aldean reminisced about the days when the two artists joined forces for tours – when the term sell-out or stadium didn’t apply.
“Miranda and I toured together a lot in the early days. We were sitting there talking about how crazy it is. We would tour together to get a crowd. By ourselves, we might get a couple of people in there on our own, but we couldn’t even sell out a gymnasium much less an arena. It’s a lot of fun to see how far it’s come. We toured together a lot and became really good friends. I’ve always been a big fan of what she does, and have said that if I was a female vocalist, that’s the kind of stuff I would play. I like what she brings to the table, and adds a lot to the show.”
Those days have definitely changed, as Lambert kept fans on their feet during her 16-song set, which included such chart-toppers as “White Liar,” “Baggage Claim,” and ‘Fastest Girl In Town.” Lambert – dressed in a leather skirt and cowboy boots – also kept up the swagger with songs such as “Gunpowder and Lead,” “Mama’s Broken Heart,” as well as a sensual romp through ZZ Top’s ‘Gimme All Your Lovin.” She also included a trio of cuts from her new Platinum disc – lead single “Automatic,” “Priscilla,” and the sassy “Little Red Wagon.” Her set proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that she is very deserving of a CMA Entertainer of the Year nomination this year. (It is possible to have two female vocalists in the running, after all!)
And, then…there was Aldean. As confident and sure of himself as he has become as an entertainer, playing baseball stadiums like Cincinnati or Cleveland would have to be a little bit intimidating. If so, you never saw the singer sweat it, as Aldean breezed through a ninety-minute set like Pete Rose at the plate in 1977. He kicked things off with “Hicktown,” his first hit from 2005, and the party was underway. Cuts like “Johnny Cash,” “1994,” and “Dirt Road Anthem” all glistened with their rock and roll sheen, while ballads like “The Truth” and “Don’t You Wanna Stay” brought out the best in Aldean’s vocals. By the end of the night, when he left fans on the edge of their seats with “She’s Country,” one thing was apparent – Just like Chesney and Shelton before him, Aldean has grown his career steadily yet surely and his next stop? Well, if he is accepting the prize for Entertainer of the Year from the CMA on November 6, this writer won’t be none too surprised! His time is now….