by John Tarpley
We've written about it plenty of times before. Gigging in Arkansas may not be a top priority for touring, big name rock bands, but for country music, our Verizon Arena is a required, "must-play" venue for anyone worth his boot leather. It has to get expensive for the dedicated country fan. In just the last year, the Little Rock market has been privy to shows from Brad Paisley, Carrie Underwood, George Strait and, one of my favorite concerts of last year, an unbelievable live retrospective from a soon-to-retire Brooks & Dunn. It's such a profitable area for boot scooters that if you were to gather up all the ticket stubs from the past 20 years, you'd have a pretty good overview of the history of new country music.
Now Jason Aldean's ready to tack his name up with the big guys. He's no stranger to playing Arkansas, gigging at Magic Springs in 2007 and at Riverfest in 2009 before making his way to superstar status and a spot at Verizon. Since he began making stops in the Natural State, Aldean's particular brand of nostalgic, "tenderbilly" anthems have earned him two platinum records and a smattering of top-spot singles with songs like "Why" and "Big Green Tractor." Country music has been hungry for electrified, beer-and-Skynyrd party rockers lately and Aldean's been the genre's go-to man since making a name for himself in 2005 with "Hicktown." It's a Big & Rich-penned, stars-and-bars jam with a music video from A&R hell: mudpits, lifted trucks, the air full of beer cans. Sure, it looks like a fun time. I just can't imagine any of my buddies from back home who moved to the sticks to take up permanent residence in their own version of Hicktown would be caught dead listening to this on any back road, ever.
From this angle, he's about as country as Pink is punk. But pop pays and not everybody wants to be Kris Kristofferson, so hats off to Aldean, the businessman. May you continue long on the road of Coors Light wishes and catfish dreams.
He's supported by rising star Eric Church and femme-power duo, The JaneDear Girls. Aldean also makes a stop the following night in Fayetteville at the University of Arkansas's Barnhill Arena, 7:30 p.m., $44.75.