Review: Jason Aldean pushes country music forward - successfully

Jason Aldean at Citizens Bank Park Friday. He blended country music with elements of hip-hop and went over well.
Jason Aldean at Citizens Bank Park Friday. He blended country music with elements of hip-hop and went over well. (DAVID SWANSON / Staff Photographer)
Posted: August 04, 2014

After the genuine smoke and (mostly) simulated fire had abated at Citizens Bank Park on Friday night to signal the end of country-pop megastar Jason Aldean's show, a key metric for rating the concert was evident.

Satisfied fans exited the ballpark, some in cowboy hats, some in ball caps, many in pointy-toed boots (especially women, a good number clad in high-thigh-baring "Daisy Dukes" cutoff denim shorts).

Most everyone sported contented looks on their faces. Leave the qualitative and quantifiable assessments to critics and other bean counters - these folks were happy. For them, it had been a night of escapist delight, full of brawny electric guitars, booming crossover beats, and twang-pop vocals leavened by rappy verbal runs.

"That was sick," affirmed one concertgoer loudly (and drunkenly) to his buddies. "And remember: We're right back down here on Aug. 15, over there at the Linc for Luke Bryan."

Aldean had wrapped up his 80-minute, 18-song headlining set with a blowout version of his rocked-out, hip-hop-cadenced late 2008 hit "She's Country," with lyrics such as: "From her cowboy boots, to her down-home roots / . . . From the songs she plays, to the prayers she prays."

Bright flames flickered on the multiple video screens, climaxing with a cyber-fireworks display and ignition of some final onstage flash pots. "She's a hot little number in her pickup truck / Daddy's sweet money done jacked it up," the 37-year-old from Macon, Ga., had intoned. "She's a party-all-nighter, from South Carolina / A bad mama-jama, from down in Alabama."

Though not a sellout, it was a healthy throng (that included Philadelphia Eagle Trent Cole, seen bobbing his head near the extended center stage ramp). Surely another lucrative stop on Aldean's current "Burn It Down" tour.

With stadium-packing pop-country vet Kenny Chesney taking this summer off, there are many up-for-grabs concertgoer dollars that Aldean and his pal Luke Bryan, among others, are not going to leave on the table.

According to a report on Forbes' website last week, Aldean placed fourth among 2013's biggest country-music earners by pulling in $37 million, with Bryan close behind at $34 million.

Florida Georgia Line, the charismatic duo with a backing band who played nine well-received songs Friday after opener Tyler Farr's brief set, squeezed into the Top 10, nabbing $24 million.  

Besides Florida Georgia Line's 1-2 wallop of lively co-frontmen Tyler Hubbard, of Monroe, Ga., and Brian Kelley, of Ormond Beach, Fla., the band's strengths included some savvy showmanship: They had their willing bassist, Tom Beaupre, of Paoli, do a little hometown shtick when he rapped a few verses of Will Smith's "Fresh Prince of Bel Air" from the edge of the stage.

The appeal of this country-hybrid music is undeniable, even if, as Forbes also noted, "It's much to the chagrin of traditionalists who deride the new wave as 'bro country' or 'hick-hop.' "

A closer listen to Friday's acts, however, revealed a host of common, predictable conceits: Farr ended with "Redneck Crazy" while Aldean closed his pre-encore set with "Crazy Town." FGL'S second tune was "Party People" and Aldean's second was "My Kinda Party" (title track of his 2010 album).

Aldean did his Colt Ford cover, "Dirt Road Anthem," after FGL had earlier offered "Dirt," its new single. And then there was the tractor factor: Aldean's "Big Green Tractor" was delivered with a limited if earnest passion. It lacked the fun sass of Chesney's 1999 goof-tune, "She Thinks My Tractor's Sexy" - but then, that's how Jim Collins, cowriter of both songs, intended it.

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