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Review: Dierks Bentley Sells Out Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena on 2017 What the Hell World Tour

Dierks Bentley 2017 tour review
Rick Diamond, Getty Images

Dierks Bentley fulfilled a long-held dream on Saturday night (Jan. 21) when he headlined his first-ever show at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena, as part of his 2017 What the Hell World Tour. In spite of a battle with laryngitis, Bentley — who joked he had a “country-Western pharmacy” onstage that included “whiskey … Red Bull-vodka, throat spray and water” — gave his everything to the sold-out crowd, who gave it right back to him.

After opening sets from Jon Pardi and Cole Swindell — the latter of whom’s final song, “You Should Be Here,” included brand-new video production featuring images of his late father — Bentley took the stage. The singer kicked off his set with a bluegrass introduction of “Up on the Ridge,” followed by “Free and Easy (Down the Road I Go)” and “Tip It on Back.”

“You have no idea what this night means to my band and crew … It’s freaking me out,” Bentley told the crowd, adding that he spends a lot of time in the Music City venue because of his love for ice hockey and his hometown NHL team, the Nashville Predators. “Tonight, this is my Stanley Cup Game 7.”

Bentley sang a few more hits before inviting his special (and surprise) guest, Elle King, to join him onstage: “She really is the most special, unique person I’ve ever met in my entire life, and I love her to death,” Bentley gushed of King before singing “Different for Girls” with her. King also sang her multi-platinum hit “Ex’s and Oh’s” before exiting to thunderous applause.

Bentley clearly wasn’t afraid to get sentimental on Saturday night: “Every Mile a Memory” was backed by a video montage of the singer’s life on and off the road, ending with footage of his dog Jake, who passed away last year.

“I do wish my Mom and Dad were here tonight,” Bentley confessed to the screaming Nashville crowd. “My mom is back in Phoenix, and my dad’s got the best seat in the house: He’s up top watching.”

When he invited opener Pardi back out onstage, Bentley quipped, “I’m like the big brother, Cole is like the middle brother” — and Pardi is like “Dad had a vasectomy and Jon came out.” The two, who plan on learning a new George Strait song to sing together at every show, performed “Carrying Your Love With Me.”

Perhaps one of the best moments of the night came when the entire stage went dark before Bentley, appropriately, launched into the title track of his latest album, “Black,” written about his wife Cassidy. During his next song, “Feel That Fire,” Bentley walked through the crowd, ending up on a second stage in the back of the arena.

“I’m so thankful you guys are here,” Bentley said to the crowd in the back. “It’s unbelievable … We put this stage back here, we didn’t know if you guys were going to show up, so it’s a big leap of faith. I might be singing to nobody, so thank you guys so much.”

Bentley sang “Riser,” joking that he was getting through each song thanks to “Jesus and beer,” before introducing his bus driver, whom Bentley boasted has driven more than a million and a half miles on a tour bus.

“This guy’s on the road every weekend, making us safe,” the singer noted. “This is my biggest celebrity right here. He started driving our bus in 2003 … He’s hanging up his spurs for a little bit tonight.”

Returning to the main stage, Bentley closed out his show by singing “Flatliner,” Swindell’s current single, with Swindell, as well as “Somewhere on a Beach,” “What Was I Thinkin'” and “Sideways.” Then, as on his previous Somewhere on a Beach Tour, for Bentley’s encore, the front of a real plane emerged onstage — this time with fellow country stars Kelsea Ballerini, Chase Rice and Cassadee Pope, plus Swindell and Pardi, pouring out of it — as Bentley sang “Drunk on a Plane.”

The What the Hell World Tour picks back up on Wednesday (Jan. 25) in Ontario, Canada. A list of all of Bentley’s upcoming shows is available on his website.

Watch Kelsea, Chase, Cassadee + More Join Dierks Bentley for “Drunk on a Plane”

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