OFFSTAGE: Blake Shelton’s Old Hits Invade New Album Show

(CMT Offstage keeps a 24/7 watch on everything that’s happening with country music artists behind the scenes and out of the spotlight.)

With all of Blake Shelton ’s relentless tweeting, his wildly popular role on The Voice, and his marriage to Miranda Lambert, sometimes it’s easy to overlook that under all of that pop culture notoriety is an outstanding country singer with more than a decade of hits under his belt. Fortunately for Shelton’s longtime fans, he still knows how to pull off all those hits in a live show. He hasn’t forgotten to dance with the ones who brought him.

At an album release show at Joe’s Bar in Chicago on Friday afternoon (March 29) — and, according to Shelton, a day that had just been declared Blake Shelton Day by Illinois Gov Pat Quinn — he actually only did one song from the new album, Based on a True Story … . Why? Because he said he was tired of promoting the new stuff.

“You know what I’d like to do,” he asked the crowd of about 1,000. “I’ve been kind of missing my old stuff, so if it’s OK with y’all, I’d like to play some of them early ones.” So after opening with “Drink on It,” he went straight into a trilogy from the early 2000s: “Nobody but Me,” “Austin” and “Ol’ Red.” And he did it all alone — with no backing band and nothing more than his guitar.

After taking a few requests for the real oldies, Shelton said, “Y’all know who my wife is? I hate to tell you she’s not here because I don’t want you to leave.” Then he launched into the story about he and Miranda Lambert wrote her hit single “Over You” on his tour bus.

He sang the moving song about his brother who died in a car accident but didn’t shed a tear like Lambert usually does when she sings that one live. All he said was, “That was kind of a downer.” He chatted easily with the crowd about the ridiculous songs he’s made (“Some Beach”), the ones about dudes hitting on women (“Sure Be Cool If You Did”) and the ones that were exactly what he needed to hear because they were exactly what he was going through (“God Gave Me You”).

The show only lasted an hour. The crowd was packed with more guys than girls and more ball caps than cowboy hats. And the 13-song playlist was more classic Shelton than new Shelton. But hearing the songs that paved the way for his journey to a new kind of celebrity was the perfect reminder of why he’s a solid country treasure.

Alison makes her living loving country music. She's based in Chicago, but she's always leaving her heart in Nashville.