Brad Paisley has the cure for the winter blues and brought it to Nashville's Bridgestone Arena Saturday night (Feb. 22). His Beat This Winter tour included active ingredients such as lasers, a bobble-headed mascot and Carrie Underwood.
On a Tennessee night perfect for the tour's premise, Paisley's formula proved to be a powerful mix of pop-culture-review plus country music.
Along with his turbo-charged guitar and award-winning vocals, he's become the master of creative video pieces to accompany his songs, projecting them on gigantic screens all over the stage. Jokes are hidden in everything he does and almost two-hours blew by without any dragging.
Arriving onstage in a sharp, white cowboy hat and sporting a fitted black shirt with sleeves stretched tight around his biceps, Paisley began with "Southern Comfort Zone" and the across-stage launching of an acoustic guitar to one of his roadies.
"Well, howdy," he said to a nearly sold-out arena, setting up the first of many deadpanned jokes. "First of all, I've always wanted to visit Nashville. I've seen it on TV. It looks awesome!"
Paisley, of course, lives in Nashville with his wife, actress Kimberly Williams-Paisley, and their two sons, and she had a big part on the most famous of the many new shows about Music City, ABC's Nashville.
Sitting next to Williams-Paisley in the VIP area was her Nashville co-star Connie Britton, along with celebrity guests like Randy Houser, Sheryl Crow, Gloriana's Rachel Reinert and radio personality Bobby Bones.
Back onstage, Paisley continued with his greeting, telling fans, "Tonight we take old man winter and bury him as deep as we can. ... Let's pretend it's summer all night!"
He and the band roared through songs like "Mud on the Tires," "The Mona Lisa" and "American Saturday Night" as animated videos and comic books came to life behind him.
Walking out on a semicircular catwalk, Paisley spied a homemade sign in the audience and grabbed it.
"'My mommy taught me to walk, talk and love you,'" he read aloud. "What's your name?" Paisley asked the young boy who was holding it.
"Owen," the youngster sheepishly replied.
"Well, Owen, you just hang out right there, and I'll have something for you later," Paisley promised.
Returning to his mic, the star said he and the crew had finally worked out all the kinks out of their long-running tour. Then he proved it with a complicated performance of "Celebrity," complete with a cartoonish Paisley mascot and that virally-infectious screaming goat.
He grabbed a fan's phone during a subdued mash-up of "Then" and "She's Everything," using it to take a selfie-video as he sang. That Facebook post is sure to earn someone a few likes.
After a Van Halen cover and another video featuring NASCAR superstar Jeff Gordon, Paisley headed to a small satellite stage in the middle of the floor.
He showed his guitar skills are not limited to electric twang, soloing all over a one-man acoustic version of "Online," then invited some of the band up for an unplugged rendition of "I'm Still a Guy."
Back on the main stage, Paisley and company worked toward the night's big highlight -- a special hometown performance of "Remind Me," his hit duet with Underwood.
Normally, the song includes a hologram of Underwood singing that is pretty believable, but since this was Nashville ...
With the lights onstage low, fans moved to their tiptoes and craned their necks to see as Underwood's lofty vocal entered the mix. A figure slowly took shape before stepping into the spotlight to an unimaginable roar from the crowd. Every single smart phone was instantly shoved skyward.
With her golden locks flowing in waves past her shoulders and a sparkling golden dress stopping just past her knees, Underwood held onto every note in the romantic ballad for dear life, smiling and sticking her tongue out at her friend Paisley between verses.
She departed with a shy wave and left Paisley to finish up with "Ticks" and "Water," which ended with the star jumping off the back of his stage into a virtual pool, but he soon returned for an all-hands-on-deck encore of "Alcohol."
With the Brad-scot bartending an onstage party, Paisley's openers and all of his friends from the VIP section -- plus maybe 50 fans -- all hoisted up a shot. When a lampshade made its way from the crowd up to the delighted Paisley's head, he roared, "Eat your heart out, Lady Gaga!"
Then, in the sweetest possible way to end a concert, Paisley walked back over to young Owen, still dutifully waiting where the star left him, bent down and gave him that sharp, white cowboy hat.
Earlier in the night, The Voice winner Danielle Bradbery and "Aw Naw" singer Chris Young warmed up the crowd with her clear soprano and his easy baritone.