Jason Aldean: Just Like the First Time

“It’s Been a Minute,” He Told a Sold-Out Bar Crowd in Chicago

This is exactly how Jason Aldean got his start: in a bar, with fans packed in tight up against the stage, doing shots and playing cover songs.

And on Sunday night (April 29), he came back.

Aldean played Chicago’s legendary Joe’s Bar — the very first local place he said he ever played — to show up for the fans who’ve been there for him ever since. “It’s good to be back. It’s been a while since we’ve been here,” Aldean told the sold-out-but-still-intimate crowd of roughly 1,000 people. “It’s been a while since we’ve got a chance to do this.

“But it’s Sunday night, so how many of y’all gotta be at work tomorrow? This would be a really good time to call in sick,” he said, “because you’re gonna be hungover as (expletive) tomorrow.”

If the crowd was hungover, it might’ve been because they were following Aldean’s lead, doing shots on stage, and calling out anyone who called him out. “This next song’s gonna make me want to drink, so I think the band needs some shots up here on stage. Tequila would be our first choice, but we will take Crown as a backup,” he said. Then to a fan who accused Aldean of not finishing his shot, “Half my shot? My ass. I drank all that. Hell, bring me another one, and I’ll do that, too. Don’t call me out; I got the microphone.”

Since the show wasn’t his usual arena show, the setlist was abbreviated. But while a lot of country artists would use a show right after an album release to play all the new tunes, Aldean delivered a few and focused on his hits. He only did three new songs — “Rearview Town,” “Drowns the Whiskey,” and his current No. 1 single “You Make It Easy” — and filled the rest of the night with fan favorites going all the way back to his self-titled debut album.

Oh, and one cover from his bar-band days. “It’s been quite a while since we’ve played a bar. We decided to go back, and pull out one of our songs we used to play back in the day when we were still playing in clubs. This was always one of our go-to jams every night,” he said as he kicked off John Cougar Mellencamp’s “Pink Houses” from his 1983 album Uh-Huh. And when he had to stop mid-song to remind himself of the lyrics, he assured the crowd he’d figure it out. “I got it. I got it. You just gotta give me a minute. We haven’t played that in about ten years,” he said.

Then near the end of his set, Aldean went all the way back to the beginning.

“Since the last time we were here, it’s been a minute. I wanna take you guys back quite a while here. About 13 years,” he said as he introduced the song that introduced him to country fans in 2005, “Hicktown.”

Aldean’s High Noon Neon Tour launches May 10 in Kansas City, Mo.

Here is Sunday’s setlist:

“Take a Little Ride”
“A Little More Summertime”
“Rearview Town”
“Any Ol’ Barstool”
“Drowns the Whiskey”
“You Make It Easy”
“Tattoos on This Town”
“Fly Over States”
“Burnin’ It Down”
“Lights Come On”
“Dirt Road Anthem”
“My Kinda Party”
“Hicktown”
“Pink Houses”
“She’s County”

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