To say country superstar Dierks Bentley had an exciting weekend would be an understatement. Bentley and wife Cassidy welcomed their first child, daughter Evalyn (Evie) Day Bentley, late Saturday night (Oct. 4) at Vanderbilt Medical Center in Nashville. And just a few hours later, he helped raise $275,000 for the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt during his third annual Music & Miles for Kids celebrity motorcycle ride and concert.
“This night has come full circle for me,” a beaming Bentley told the crowd Sunday night (Oct. 5) at Riverfront Park in downtown Nashville where his celebrity motorcycle ride ended with a concert with performances by Tim McGraw, Jamey Johnson, John Rich, Halfway to Hazard and many others.
But long before Bentley or any others could reach the stage for the concert that lasted more than three hours, he first joined the celebration early that afternoon with 1,500 other motorcyclists in a ride that began in the Cool Springs area south of Nashville. Played out like a line from his “Free and Easy (Down the Road I Go),” a sunny day in Tennessee set the mood for him and his friends who made their way to the stage later that afternoon. Though Bentley made several appearances to repeatedly thank the crowd for its support, he didn’t officially take the stage until sundown.
After Heath Haynes and the Hi-Dollars opened the show with a vigorous set of classic country music, special guest Lee Brice made his way to the stage and sat down with a guitar for a quick set featuring his first single, “She Ain’t Right.” He then offered “More Than a Memory,” a No. 1 for Garth Brooks that he co-wrote, and his latest single, “Upper Middle Class White Trash.”
Chad Warrix and David Tolliver of Halfway to Hazard followed with “I’m Tired” and “Daisy” before surprising the crowd by bringing out Brice and Lady Antebellum’s Charles Kelley for a rocking rendition of Tom Petty’s “Mary Jane’s Last Dance.”
The screaming and yelling only got louder as the next artist hit the stage for a brief acoustic set of songs. Decked out in a tight coral-colored V-neck T-shirt, pink bandana and matching Band-Aids on both thumbs, Tim McGraw performed the heart-wrenching “You Had to Be There,” followed by an upbeat favorite, “Something Like That.” Though his tear-jerking “If You’re Reading This” was interrupted by scream after scream from the women in the front rows, he was still able to create a serious and somber moment as he sang about a soldier’s final words.
Award-winning songwriter Jamey Johnson then took to the stage with only his acoustic guitar and performed “High Cost of Livin'” and his current single, “In Color.” But it was his version of “Give It Away,” the award-winning George Strait hit Johnson co-wrote with Bill Anderson and Buddy Cannon, that compelled most fans to sing along to every word. Johnson even managed a couple of grins himself after revising the final verse of the song to say, “And they gave me an ACM and a CMA/And I bought myself an Escalade/And, hell, George Strait even knows my name.” Fortunately for the crowd, Johnson extended his set with a medley of songs from his latest album, That Lonesome Song.
The benefit concert was not limited to country artists. Performances were provided by award-winning Christian artist Jeremy Camp and his wife Adrienne. During his set, singer-songwriter Mat Kearney joked that it was probably the only time McGraw would ever open for him. One of the biggest surprises came when NASCAR driver Kyle Petty performed a song with Richard “Richie” Supa, a songwriter who has frequently collaborated with Aerosmith, as well as Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora. Petty also introduced his son-in-law, singer-songwriter Randy Montana.
As the concert progressed, an autographed Fender guitar was auctioned off for a whopping $10,000 before John Rich showed up to sing Johnny Cash’s “I Walk the Line.” He then went on to play Big & Rich’s “Lost in This Moment” and also two new songs, “The Man” and “Drive Yourself to Drink,” that will be featured on his upcoming solo album. He ended his set with “Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy)” with Two Foot Fred even making an appearance onstage.
Bentley finally made his way to the stage to perform at nightfall. Joined by the Warren Brothers, they first began with “Feel That Fire.” Bentley played the rest of the evening with his full band and performed a set filled with favorites such as “Lot of Leavin’ Left to Do” and “What Was I Thinkin’.”
“This is a really bad lead-in. But if you’re to ask me how I’m doin’, I’d say pretty good,” the new father smiled. He then took the crowd from cheering and shouting the words to “How Am I Doin'” to dancing and even kissing during “Come a Little Closer.”
“Love is in the air!” he shouted.
He went on to dedicate “Every Mile a Memory” to anyone who has ever been on a bike, again thanking the fans for their donations to the children’s hospital. “It brings this town together,” he said.
Before heading offstage, he ended the day of sunshine, music and motorcycles on an appropriate note with “Free and Easy (Down the Road I Go).”