HOT DISH: Brad Paisley’s High-Tech Concert Intensity

He Plays to Fans, Friends and Business Associates During Recent Appearance in Nashville

(CMT Hot Dish is a weekly feature written by veteran columnist Hazel Smith. Author of the cookbook, Hazel’s Hot Dish: Cookin’ With Country Stars, she also hosts CMT’s Southern Fried Flicks With Hazel Smith and shares her recipes at CMT.com.)

Green lights flashing in total darkness segued to blue-green as the intro of Brad Paisley’s “Online” wafted from the speakers with enough intensity to bring the crowd to its feet at Nashville’s Sommet Center. The shy lad from Glen Dale, W.Va., has gone big-time high-tech — so much so that fans can actually see mud slinging in red and orange while the images keep time with “Mud on the Tires.” Not only that, Brad is really singing with gusto these days.

“It’s nice to be home tonight,” said Brad, who added, “It’s strange to drive to work.”

It’s not often he performs a full concert in Nashville, and he knew lots of friends and staff from his record label and publishing company were attending the Feb. 15 show. He welcomed us all while mentioning the city as the home of the Nashville Predators and a place he reveres, the Grand Ole Opry.

He went through hit after hit, including “She’s Everything,” “Celebrity” and “The World,” and every song included visuals of Brad and his band on the high-tech screen. For instance, when he played his Grammy-winning country instrumental, “Throttleneck,” the screen displayed self-designed cartoons of him as the character Zoom Paisley racing alongside his band in their high-tech vehicles.

The best I could count, Brad zipped through 20 songs, including “When I Get Where I’m Going,” “We Danced,” the award-winning “Whiskey Lullaby” and the tongue-in-cheek “Alcohol.”

At the end of the concert, the audience rose to its feet again while screaming like banshees to a darkened stage. And they got a couple more from Brad and the boys — “I’m Gonna Miss Her” and the Johnny Cash classic, “Folsom Prison Blues.”

I was honored to visit with Brad backstage before the concert. He looked fabulous in his white cowboy hat, black shirt, well-fitting jeans and boots. We chatted, but not nearly enough. Brad is a busy man these days. When his wife, the more-beautiful-than-ever Kimberly Williams-Paisley, learned I was present, she came off the new royal blue bus, and we had a nice visit. Kim digs every part of motherhood. As a matter of fact, she got a tad teary-eyed when we talked about the first time 1-year-old Huck said “mama.”

Sexy and handsome newcomer Chuck Wicks opened the show by performing a half dozen tunes and was followed by hitmaker Rodney Atkins, who already has a slate of recognizable songs like “If You’re Going Through Hell (Before the Devil Even Knows)” and his current No. 1 single, “Cleaning This Gun (Come On In Boy).” Atkins described Brad from the stage as “the nicest guy I’ve ever met in the music business.”

I agree with Rodney. A Brad Paisley concert is worth the price of admission, too. His may very well be the best show on the road these days.

Hannah Montana Movie Filming in Tennessee
I hear that Billy Ray Cyrus has been successful in his efforts to bring part of the filming of Disney’s Hannah Montana movie to Tennessee. With teen sensation Miley Cyrus starring in the movie, this is huge news for the Cyrus family, who still own a home south of Nashville. It’s also huge news for Tennessee because of economic reasons. Shooting is to begin in April.

CMT’s Top Dogs
Talk about putting on the dog with the top artists. Already booked to perform April 14 on the 2008 CMT Music Awards are Alan Jackson, Brad Paisley, Carrie Underwood, Sugarland, Taylor Swift and Toby Keith. It’s a fan-voted event, so vote for your favorites here at CMT.com.

Dierks Bentley Is the Man
Dierks Bentley is giving his fans the opportunity of choosing songs, photos, cover art and the title of his forthcoming greatest hits album. The first 3,000 fans participating will be listed as executive producers in the CD’s liner notes. To show his appreciation, Dierks is also making a donation in their honor to Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital.

Crystal Gayle and Natural Beauty
Shooting a recent episode of CMT’s Southern Fried Flicks With Hazel Smith, I couldn’t help but stare at Crystal Gayle. Standing in my kitchen, she’s still beautiful — and without a facelift or Botox or any of the modern day trappings money-hungry doctors insist are needed by show biz types. I’m convinced they falsely convince artists that their knives can make them look younger.

Crystal’s flawless complexion and deep blue eyes, sweet smile and signature long hair touching the floor are like they’ve been for more than 30 years. So sure of herself, she did not even bring along her own makeup person for the TV taping. But she brought me a bag of her goodies, including CDs and a Crystal Gayle T-shirt like the one Will Ferrell wore in the movie Talladega Nights.

Take a long hard look at how wonderful Crystal looks before you get an eye lift or a face stretch or a lip enhancer. Lord knows, a body doesn’t need ear-to-ear lips. I could list some celebrities with droopy-scarred faces, but I won’t. Squinted eyes, bubbled-up lips and stretched foreheads are gonna look a fright while rocking in a nursing home.

Wizard Hair
My grandson Jeremy calls it “wizard hair” to describe my slept-on, non-combed coiffure. Did you happen to see the none-too-happy photo of the great Reba McEntire as she exited the Koi Restaurant in Hollywood this week? Reba’s coiffure resembled my wizard hair.

I’d wager Reba had every hair in place, though, during each of the 15 sold-out shows she and Kelly Clarkson performed together. Closing Feb. 16 in Kansas City, both singers stayed onstage throughout each concert — serving as each other’s background vocalist.

Battle of the Bulge
Dolly Parton, who has fought the battle of the bulge for a long while, is almost as thin as the Olsen twins these days, so I hear. I do love Dolly Parton and hope she’s doing fine.

See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Tomato Soup.