LAS VEGAS — The front row was all wet. So was the second row. As was the third row. In fact, about 2,000 of the more than 3,000 people who came to see Dierks Bentley’s Saturday night (April 2) concert at the beach at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas did so from the water.
The concert was one of several activities leading up to Sunday night’s ACM Awards show at the nearby MGM Grand.
Bentley’s stage was set up like an island in the deep end of the zero-depth wave pool. So fans could either watch from the sand beyond the pool, the balconies off the casino or literally just roll up their pants and wade right up to the front of the stage until they were about knee deep. That’s the attraction of Bentley and his 90-minute show packed with everything from his bluegrass, his classic crowd pleasers and even some Charlie Sheen jokes.
He opened the show with “Feel That Fire” and “Every Mile a Memory,” then switched gears completely to head full force into his brand new party anthem “Am I the Only One.” At which point he told fans exactly what he was expecting of them.
“I want you to leave this weekend hurting, and I want tonight to be the cause,” he said. “It’s a Vegas hangover, and I do not want to be the only one who’s got one.”
Then came more of hits, including “Free and Easy (Down the Road I Go).” “Trying to Stop Your Leaving” and “A Lot of Leavin’ Left to Do.” But it was when he brought out “Up on the Ridge” that you could see this was no pop-country show with a Vegas twist. The fans in front of the stage started two-stepping to this bluegrassier side of Bentley’s hit list. And from his vantage point, he said all he could see were girls in little white tank tops that read “Jager makes my clothes fall off.” (Joe Nichols might argue that, because according to him, it’s tequila that does the trick.)
Toward the end of the show, he did a medley that began with his recollection of listening to George Strait’s “Ocean Front Property” in his dad’s truck. Then it was onto singing Waylon Jennings’ “Good Ol’ Boys” theme song from The Dukes of Hazzard. Then came a bit of Strait’s “All My Ex’s Live in Texas.” Then a nice down-home take on Billy Idol’s “Rebel Yell” from 1984. That one, Bentley admitted, came from his sister’s insistence that he stop listening to so much country. Which he did. But he said, “I’d always wonder, ’How would that sound with some banjo?'”
He played a couple of tunes from the upcoming album he promised will be released this summer. But he ended the night by admitting to the raucous crowd that the liquor was kicking in and then closed the show with “Sideways” (which everyone already was) and then “What Was I Thinkin'” (which is what all those Bentley fans are probably asking themselves today).
Josh Thompson warmed up the crowd before Bentley took the stage and proved to be the best man for the job. His set was short — just 10 songs — but his music covers so much of the same kind lyrical territory that Bentley’s does, he was a natural fit for the crowd. From his breakout hit, “Beer on the Table,” to his new one, “Won’t Be Lonely Long,” he managed to sing songs that show he’s country, he knows how to work hard, he’s sinned, he’s got a reputation in his hometown, and when a girl breaks his heart, he goes out drinking. All of which, Thompson says, you can blame on Waylon.Check out CMT.com’s comprehensive coverage of the ACM Awards.