On the beach, he acted as a salesman for that show and Atlantic City itself. From The Voice, he brought out two Team Blake veterans in Danielle Bradbery and Gwen Sebastian, duetting with the latter on "My Eyes," from Based on a True Story ... (2013), his most recent studio album.
He remarked repeatedly on being taken aback by the size of the crowd. "You've got to do this every year and have me back every year," he said. "I work for beer." Taking a look at the boats bobbing in the ocean to his right in the comfortably breezy evening, he exclaimed: "Hard-core country freaks in Atlantic City: I love it. ... I ain't kidding when I say I have never seen so many country-music fans in one place in my life."
The free Shelton show brought with it the hope that, coupled with an also free Lady Antebellum beach show on Sunday, Atlantic City will get a midsummer-weekend shot in the arm.
The musical missteps of the evening were "Some Beach," in which Shelton wore a cowboy hat with a wig for laughs, and "Ol' Red," a too-corny-for-its-own-good story song about a randy old dog and a prison break originally sung by George Jones that Shelton should have let lie.
On the plus side, he reached as far back as "Austin," the 2001 ballad that was his first No. 1 hit, which he performed in a solo acoustic version while his rugged, largely bombast-free country-rock band sat one out. Then he amped it up with the infectious earworm "Honeybee" and "Boys 'Round Here," the surprisingly successful country-hip-hop mash-up that largely avoids the Bro Country pitfalls that typically bring down his more hacklike male mainstream country competitors.
Leather and denim clean-cut duo Dan + Shay - pianist-singer Dan Smyers and guitarist-vocalist Shay Mooney - opened the show when the sun was still beating hard, just before 4:30 in the afternoon. The fresh-faced Nashville duo bounced between pop-rock party tunes and bombastic singer-songwriter balladry. They saved their country radio hit "19 You + Me" for last.