It’s hard to imagine that any additional country fans could squeeze into the Executive Inn showroom during the CMT Most Wanted Live tour in Owensboro, Ky., on Friday night (Nov. 8). Every table, booth and wall was occupied — if not overflowing — during the easygoing set from Brad Paisley and energetic newcomers Pinmonkey .
With only three years in the biz, Paisley can already charm an audience without sounding rote or ridiculous. Similar to Alan Jackson and George Strait , Paisley didn’t allow much time for chit-chat, launching his set with “Mud on the Tires,” “Wrapped Around,” “Who Needs Pictures” and “Two Feet of Topsoil.” He donned his white cowboy hat before singing “Two People Fell in Love,” which complemented his brown shirt, brown jeans and that white T-shirt that he’s so fond of.
Yet, Paisley isn’t one to hide behind his band. During an acoustic portion of his set, the 30-year-old singer plucked a few bars from a variety of songs, similar to an interactive “Name That Tune” game. His solo rendition of “The Old Rugged Cross” was also a highlight.
He also thanked the fans for sending “He Didn’t Have to Be” up the charts, even if the song about stepdads doesn’t really call for an indulgent rock guitar solo at the end. Still, it’s refreshing to see Paisley tear it up on his instrument and give his band a chance to do the same thing.
Proving his versatility, Paisley and band offered a quick bluegrass breakdown early in the set, followed later by a full-force take on ZZ Top’s “Sharp Dressed Man.” But it’s traditional country that fans came to hear, and they got it, with a brand new song “Ain’t Nothin’ Like,” the latest single “I Wish You’d Stay” and the country classic “Will the Circle Be Unbroken.”
Not surprisingly, the crowd went crazy upon hearing the simple phrase, “Well, I love her. …” That, of course, is the first line of the CMA award-winning video “I’m Gonna Miss Her (The Fishin’ Song).” During the song, someone in the audience handed Paisley a black hat that read “Got Fish?” and the guys in Pinmonkey stormed the stage in gorilla masks. For an encore, Paisley and Pinmonkey joined forces for an enthusiastic take on “The Crawdad Song” (“You get a line and I’ll get a pole, baby…”).
Pinmonkey’s superior musicianship sounded somewhat muffled in the showroom, but the poor acoustics didn’t stop the four-man band from racing through their 10-song set. “Barbed Wire and Roses,” their first single and video, got the most applause, obviously, but ballads like “Two Days From Knowing” and “Augusta” best showcased Michael Reynolds’ pliable tenor. Somehow, Pinmonkey’s music manages to be exciting without sounding bouncy — not an easy feat. The band also announced that they’re filming a video for the new single “I Drove All Night.” As on their new album, they bid farewell to ol’ Kentucky with the rousing gospel number “Stay With Us.”
Future stops for the CMT Most Wanted Live tour include Charlotte, N.C.; Knoxville, Tenn.; and several Midwestern dates. The tour concludes in Las Vegas on Dec. 12-14.