Oh, yeah, the one Brad Paisley on Thursday night called the “elephant … [before quickly changing it to] Razorback in the corner of the room.”
A very savvy — and believable — Paisley says he’s learned his lesson and to prove it he showed up on the North Little Rock stop of his Virtual Reality Tour decked out in a Razorback T shirt. And not a subtle one, either. The gray shirt featured the word HOGS emblazoned in very large red letters across his chest.
Throughout the evening, Paisley referred to the tour prank last year when members of Eden’s Edge stole his West Virginia doormat and replaced it with a Razorback one only to have him burn the Arkansas mat in retaliation. To put it mildly, the resulting video that made it to the web didn’t exactly please the Razorback Nation.
“I was very careful picking out my wardrobe this evening,” Paisley told the Verizon Arena crowd of 7,495, which interrupted him to loudly call the Hogs. “Thanks a lot for letting me back in your state. The important thing is I learned my lesson.”
To help make amends, he replaced the word butterfly in “Ticks” (“your jeans are playing peekaboo / I'd like to see the other half of your Razorback tattoo”) and later during “Letter to Me” told his 17-year-old self “whatever you do, don’t ever burn a Razorback mat.”
Along with mentioning the Razorbacks and the incident, Paisley made it obvious throughout the concert that he’s still at the top of his game. Not only one of the genre’s top singers and most accomplished guitar players, he’s one of country music’s best entertainers.
From his opening number, “The World,” through hits like “Waitin’ on a Woman,” “Mud on the Tires,” “I’m Gonna Miss Her” and “Alcohol,” which he used as an encore, Paisley kept the fast-paced show running smoothly. Having long embraced traditional country music and its stars, he gave a wink to the late Waylon Jennings by using a bit of “Good Hearted Woman” as a lead-in to “I’m Still A Guy.” And he very generously featured his young opening acts.
After fine performances of their own, Scott McCreery and the members of The Band Perry joined the headliner on a pair of rousing numbers. McCreery, the 2011 “American Idol” champ, added to the fun on Paisley’s “Celebrity,” and Kimberly Perry filled in nicely on the Alison Krauss part in “Whiskey Lullaby.”
In an opening 25-minute, seven-song set, McCreery displayed a comfortable, easy stage presence on hits like “Walk in the Country” and “I Love You This Big.” But it was on “Water Tower Town” — the one with lyrics like “nobody eats 'til you say amen, and everybody knows your mom and them” — and his rockin’ cover of Travis Tritt’s “T-R-O-U-B-L-E” that he showed he can handle a country song with the best of ’em.
It’s also easy to see why The Band Perry — Kimberly Perry and her brothers Neil and Reid — are quickly hitting it big on the country charts, thanks to the clean harmonies the trio produced on songs like “If I Die Young,” “You Lie,” “Postcard From Paris” and “All Your Life.” While Kimberly was center stage most of the time, the siblings had fun with Queen’s “Fat Bottomed Girls,” which featured strong vocals from Neil.
As if all that wasn’t enough, Paisley — helping his tour live up to its name — wowed with a virtual Carrie Underwood on “Remind Me.” Plus, he created the “Star Wars” themed animation that was featured on the background screen while he and his band showed off their instrumental prowess on “The Nervous Breakdown.”
From the crowd’s reaction all night long, it’s pretty obvious a welcome mat will be out anytime Paisley wants to stop back by.