Dierks Bentley Brings What the Hell Tour to Nashville

Kelsea Ballerini, Elle King, Cassadee Pope, Chase Rice Make Surprise Appearances

Dierks Bentley may never come down from Saturday’s (Jan. 21) headlining debut at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena.

After 23 years of calling Nashville home, attracting thousands of fans for his annual Miles & Music for Kids benefit concerts at Riverside Park and performing several CMA Music Festivals at Nissan stadium, Bentley sold out the arena — a bucket list venue for any country artist. The concert fell on night three of the What the Hell Tour 2017.

“I’ve been to so many Predators games,” he said three songs into his set, “and let me tell you, tonight is my Stanley Cup game seven right now. This is the biggest show of my whole life. I’ve got the home team. I’ve got the home crowd. We’re in our hometown, but if I don’t leave the stage with any voice left, I’m not doing my job. I’m going to give you guys all I got tonight.”

The concert kicked off with a fiery rendition of “Up on the Ridge” that had five pyro torches igniting the stage. Then Bentley rolled into “Free and Easy (Down the Road I Go),” “Am I the Only One,” “5-1-5-0″ and “Say You Do.”

Surprise guest Elle King joined him onstage for their award-winning “Different for Girls,” which is the reigning CMA musical event of the year. Then King stayed onstage to sing “Ex’s & Oh’s.”

During “Every Mile a Memory,” video of previous tours and personal family photos flashed on mega-screens behind the band, and then Bentley brought out opener Jon Pardi for a cover of George Strait’s “Carrying Your Love With Me.” He said their top goal of the tour is to cover a different Strait No. 1 every show.

After “Black” and “Feel That Fire,” security guided Bentley through the audience to a satellite stage in the back of the arena for “Riser” and “Home.” After inviting his tour bus driver onstage to share the spotlight, Bentley returned to the main stage and brought up his direct support Cole Swindell to perform their new collaboration and Swindell’s current single, “Flatliner.” “Somewhere on a Beach,” “What Was I Thinkin’” and “Sideways” wrapped the first portion of his set.

“I do wish my mom and dad were here now,” Bentley said at one point during the night. “My mom’s back in Phoenix. My dad’s got the best seat in the house. He’s up top up there watching but he would love this. My dad and I, we drove out here in 1994 together in a truck that was titled under his name and he would love this.”

Bentley’s father Leon Bentley passed away on June 1, 2012. He was 88.

“I’ve been through some high and some lows,” Bentley added. “I started off playing all those bars down there and then playing for free beer, playing for tips and I never imagined getting the chance to play this place.”

For the encore, Bentley returned to the stage piloting a big Dude Air jetliner to sing “Drunk on a Plane.” For the final chorus, he was joined by stage crashers Kelsea Ballerini, Cassadee Pope, Chase Rice, King, Swindell and Pardi.

Swindell’s set included his four No. 1s “Middle of a Memory,” “You Should Be Here,” “Ain’t Worth the Whiskey” and “Hope You Get Lonely Tonight,” plus a mashup originals he co-wrote for other acts including Florida Georgia Line’s “This Is How We Roll” and Thomas Rhett’s “Get Me Some of That.” Before leaving the stage, he paid tribute to the late songwriter Andrew Dorff, who co-wrote “Remember Me,” the closing track of Swindell’s latest album You Should Be Here.

Pardi had the arena packed for his opening 30-minute set, which was heavy on his latest album California Sunrise plus “Up All Night” from 2014’s Write You a Song.

Lauren Tingle is a Tennessean and storyteller who eats music for breakfast, lunch and dinner. When she’s not writing or rocking out, she enjoys yoga and getting lost in the great outdoors.