Agreeable weather and Brad Paisley's clean, country picking made for a winning combination Friday night at Ford Amphitheatre.
Paisley is a heartthrob and a hit maker, but unlike so many others who fit that double-bill, Paisley's also a first-rate musician, a smoking guitarist who can stand shoulder to shoulder with Nashville's finest.
He also packed his band with hotshot pickers. "Mr. Policeman" gave Paisley and band mates room to shine. The song owes a debut to "Hot Rod Lincoln," both lyrically and as a setting for some fleet-fingered solos from Paisley and crew. Paisley tossed in a bit of "East Bound and Down," a timely reference to that song's performer, the recently departed Jerry Reed, and then closed with a humorous and cautionary verse of Jimmie Rodgers' "In the Jailhouse Now."
Paisley, more than most other contemporary Nashville elites, pays tribute to country's history in word and deed. Little Jimmy Dickens showed up in the video screen parody of "Guitar Hero" which accompanied "Celebrity," and "Wrapped Around" was a fast country shuffle reminiscent of hits by Johnny Horton and Ray Price.
And he's good with a sweet tear-jerker as well, as he proved with "Waitin' on a Woman."
In contrast was opening act Jewel, who since her 1995 debut has gone from Lilith Fair folkie to middling pop-rocker and now to country hopeful, with mediocrity her one constant. That was apparent during a mostly lifeless set that depended on 13 year old hits such as "Who Will Save Your Soul" to get the reaction her country material didn't.
And now a word about tooth decay. Paisley's tour is sponsored by a chocolate candy company. Opening act Chuck Wicks is sponsored by a brand of soda pop. Aren't the marketing departments of Crest and Colgate missing an opportunity here?