Review: Brad Paisley Brings Humor, Carrie Underwood Surprise to Country Jam 2016
When performing a song originally recorded as a duet or collaboration in concert, most artists will either rely on a backup singer or opening act to fill in for the missing person — but not Brad Paisley.
On his current Life Amplified Tour, armed with nothing more than a giant video screen behind him, the country star performs his newest single, "Without a Fight," with Demi Lovato; he brings in Alabama for "Old Alabama;" and, in a particularly well-thought-out and interactive moment, he sings "Remind Me" with Carrie Underwood.
Near the end of his show at Country Jam 2016, one of Paisley's roadies brought out his cell phone for Paisley to "make a video call" to Underwood's team. As the star began "Remind Me," the guy who picked up on Underwood's end started searching for her, finding the country superstar at just the right moment for her to chime in with her part of the hit — and then offer a hello specifically to the Colorado crowd.
"If she wasn't so stuck up, she'd have been here," Paisley joked at the end of the bit.
In that hands of another artist, a moment like that could come off as cheesy — c'mon, we all know it was pre-recorded! — but Paisley has the gift of turning cheesy into ... not smooth, necessarily, but endearing and charming. And, you know, he can play guitar like a boss, so that helps, too.
It's not exactly a secret at this point that Paisley is one heck of a guitar player, but sometimes when you're listening to his albums or hearing him on the radio, it's easy to forget, because Paisley veers more toward the Vince Gill end of the guitarist spectrum than the Keith Urban end. In other words (and with no offense meant toward Urban), Paisley prefers to play his hits more or less the way you know them — and then, during the moments without lyrics, make you realize that he doesn't need a big, loud, shred-it solo moment because all of his songs originally feature his incredible playing.
The other thing Paisley has going for him is his sense of humor, another by-now-well-documented trait. During his his hour-and-a-half-long set on Friday night (June 17), he didn't talk much, but that fun personality still shone through. During "Country Nation," Paisley teased the crowd by inserting rival football team names into the song, earning loud "boo!"s, before settling on "We're Broncos" ... and then offering a winking reference to Peyton Manning's now-famous Nationwide TV commercials at the very end. "I'm Still a Guy" and "She's Everything" found Paisley stealing audience members' phones to take a few selfies (and have a look through the photos already on them), while he finished off "River Bank" by playing his guitar with a GoPro camera in one hand.
Paisley's one extended chat with the Country Jam crowd, though, was pretty priceless: Remarking on Grand Junction's high altitude and the state's legalization of marijuana, he quipped, "It's like, 'Don't have oxygen up here, just legalize it!' I dunno how you light the things up here," before teasing festival-goers about their — ahem — post-show plans.
"There'll be people who will look back and say, 'That's where I was created!'" Paisley said. "Yeah, good luck with that."
The singer also promised the crowd, "I'm gonna sing everything you want to hear tonight," but as it turns out, that's a nearly impossible feat when you're Brad Freakin' Paisley and have eight consecutive No. 1 albums and 19 No. 1 songs. The Country Jam audience got "The World," "Water," "Online," "American Saturday Night," "Celebrity" and many more, but Paisley simply didn't have time to play every last hit.
That's a good problem to have.