HERSHEY, Pa. — “When I was a boy, I dreamed of a place where everything was made of chocolate,” Brad Paisley told the audience in Hershey, Pa., on Saturday night (July 26). “I closed my eyes and wished I was there … and I’m here!”
Of course, Hershey’s Chocolate is sponsoring the Paisley Party tour this year, and the singer certainly earned his Payday during an energetic show at the Giant Center, an arena in the gooey center of the Hershey empire.
Paisley kicked off the night at the tip of the catwalk — or should I say the KitKat walk — with “Mud on the Tires,” perched just close enough for fans to blow him Kisses. After taking some photos, I decided to sit way in the back of the venue, a few rows from the rear wall, to get a better view of his visual presentation. As much as I like Paisley’s music, one of the big reasons to see his show is what’s going on in the background. Nobody in country music is as creative. I mean, the guy even does his own animation, and the visual elements often complement his oddball sense of humor.
For example, when he’s singing “Celebrity,” only a country fan could love the famous people he’s chosen to grace the gigantic backdrop. In this digital world, it’s almost like you can have anybody you want as a special guest. I was secretly hoping for Andy Griffith, the co-star of Paisley’s new video, “Waitin’ on a Woman.” Alas, I will settle for Alison Krauss, who “appeared” for her verses on the special dark duet, “Whiskey Lullaby.”
Knowing that fans always expect S’More cool stuff than he displayed the last time through town, Paisley offered a super-cool cartoon to accompany his Grammy-winning instrumental, “Throttleneck.” Still, it’s fun material like “I’m Gonna Miss Her (The Fishing Song)” that always Whipps the crowd into a frenzy. Throughout his 105-minute set, he played Mounds of his slower hits, too, like “She’s Everything,” “Letter to Me” and “When I Get Where I’m Going,” as well as a duet of “That’s the Way Love Goes” with Jewel, one of his opening acts.
Jewel seems to be a little bit out of her element on this tour. She sang some of the pop songs that were huge hits for her in the ’90s, mostly from her Pieces of You album. To be fair, I really like a lot of her music, especially “Anyone but You,” a very traditional country song from her new album, Perfectly Clear. However, at the end of “Who Will Save Your Soul,” she unexpectedly screamed the last note, which instantly woke up anybody who had fallen asleep. However, the crowd did seem to enjoy her yodeling finale.
Chuck Wicks had the second slot, with a mixed bag of love songs like “Stealing Cinderella” and seductive material like “What If You Stay.” After his performance, he spent several minutes signing autographs and eventually had to be ushered off the stage by a production assistant so Jewel could start her set.
Julianne Hough started out the night with a few up-tempo songs, including her debut single, “That Song in My Head.” Although she is best-known from Dancing With the Stars, she told the crowd that singing country music is her true love. And like her immediate surroundings, she was sweet.