Review: Blake Shelton Charms Concert Crowd With Hits, Charisma
About two-thirds of the way through his concert at Buffalo, N.Y.'s First Niagara Center on Thursday night (March 17), Blake Shelton came to the very end of his stage's catwalk, armed with an acoustic guitar and a black cup. He perched himself on the stool that his crew had placed behind a microphone, put his drink on a second stool next to him (yes, Shelton's drinks get their own seat) and proceeded to charm the crowd with stunning solo renditions of three of his earliest singles: 2002's "The Baby" (a No. 1 hit), 2005's "Nobody But Me" (a Top 5 song) and 2001's "Austin," Shelton's very first single -- and first No. 1 hit.
"Thank you for making that my first No. 1 ...," the country star told the crowd, most of whom had sung along to every word, after finishing "Austin" and before raising his cup to "cheers" the audience. "That calls for a drink."
Thanks to Shelton's 10 seasons-long role on The Voice, awards show hosting gigs and near-constant presence on gossip sites and in tabloids, it can be easy to forget what got him there in the first place: good, solid country music ... and a ton of charisma. Both were on full display throughout his two-hour set.
"If we do this right tonight, it's gonna be a long time before we're done up here," Shelton said early in the evening, "... so settle in."
As country fans know, Shelton has earned himself a whopping 21 No. 1 songs since releasing his self-titled debut album in 2001, and he played every last one of them -- and then some. After opening his show with "Neon Light" (his 18th overall and 13th consecutive No. 1), the singer expertly weaved together country party anthems such as "All About Tonight" and "Hillbilly Bone" with slower fare such as "Drink on It" and "Doin' What She Likes" (yes, all No. 1s).
Prior to "Doin' What She Likes," Shelton offered some advice to a few fans up near the front of the stage: "I'm proud of you, because you came here for the right reasons," he told, by his own account, a group of guys with "Duck Dynasty beards" who appeared to be at the show with dates. "You came here because she wanted to come."
Shelton continued his dialogue with the bearded men throughout the show, to hilarious effect. After watching at least one of the guys "completely blow it" by trying to hit on his date during a cover of "Ol' Red," the star admitted, "It's hard to keep a straight face at some points in the show," and offered the gentleman a chance to redeem himself during "Who Are You When I'm Not Looking."
Shelton didn't ignore the rest of his arena full of admirers, though: When a fan tossed a green beaded necklace at the stage at the very beginning of his show (it was St. Patrick's Day, after all), Shelton proceeded to catch it (with some skill, it should be noted), put it on and wear it throughout his entire set. He signed hats for a couple lucky fans on two separate occasions and led the arena in a sing-a-long during "Gonna" and "Lonely Tonight."
"I think we're good together ... I'd hit my button for y'all," Shelton praised, before offering a humorous critique of the crowd's singing skills. "I bet Adam [Levine] would, too ... jerka--!"
Shelton ended the night with "Honey Bee" and "Boys 'Round Here," followed by an encore of "Footloose" and "God Gave Me You."
Although much of the partying crowd was still finding their seats during his opening set, Chris Janson took his short time on stage to win over the audience he did have with, among other moments, an abridged cover of "Country Boys Can Survive," a sweet story about his wife and family and some killer harmonica playing. He closed his show with "Buy Me a Boat," and the fans, mostly in their seats at that point, (very) loudly sang along.
Shelton's winter / spring tour wraps up on Saturday night (March 19) in Pittsburgh, Pa. His summer calendar currently includes numerous festival dates, including a stop at Country Jam in Colorado in June.
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