Just 12 days after performing at the Route 91 Harvest country music festival in Las Vegas when a gunman opened fire from a hotel window in a shooting that left 58 people dead and more than 500 wounded, a determined Jason Aldean played Verizon Arena Friday night in North Little Rock with a renewed vigor and a heavy heart.
“We appreciate y’all coming out to see us,” Aldean said after beginning just his second show after the tragic incident with “They Don’t Know,” “The Only Way I Know” and “Johnny Cash.” “I just want to say, man it’s good to be here. Every show we do is one step closer to us sorta getting through this whole thing. By you guys being here tonight to support us, support the show, the tour, that means the world to us."
“I can promise you, not a day will go by that we won’t remember what happened in Las Vegas. … It’s something that will always be with us in our minds and our hearts. But at some point, you know, we have to do what we do, which is come out here, play our songs, show people we’re not scared of ’em and live life like we’re supposed to live it. Our thoughts and prayers are always with the victims and their families – everybody that was there that night.
“But the way I look at it," he said, "you guys bought a ticket tonight to see a rock ’n’ roll country music concert. And so from here on out, the rest of this tour, I intend to play every song for you guys; I intend to play it for the people that came to our show that night and didn’t get a chance to see the whole show. Starting right now, we’re about to kick it into high gear and show what country music is all about. Y’all ready?”
His 10,222 fans in attendance were more than ready, standing, cheering and singing along as Aldean and his band went through a boatload of hits. Although some of the equipment and even some instruments intended for use on this stop on their They Don’t Know Tour was still in Las Vegas, that didn’t affect the sound or the show. The heartache-laden – and more traditional than most of his country-rock hits – “Any Ol’ Barstool” was a favorite as it details what a guy who is crushed by a breakup is doing to try to not let his ex know how she’s hurt him: “Sure I stay ’til they’re all long gone, and I take the long way home, but I ain’t sittin’ ‘round.”
As he explained later, Aldean, the reigning Academy of Country Music entertainer of the year, feels “music is all about experimenting” – sprinkling his country sound with more than just a little rock ’n’ roll. Case in point, tunes like the celebratory “My Kinda Party,” the huge hit “Dirt Road Anthem,” “Crazy Town” and “Tattoos on This Town.” But he also delivers on the ballads, such as “Amarillo Sky” off his first album.
“Burnin’ It Down,” “Hicktown” and the pleasing “Texas Was You” proved to be other crowd favorites. It was a little after 11 when Aldean treated his fans to a ride on his “Big Green Tractor” and “She’s Country” in his encore.
Chris Young, performing as the middle act, kicked off his part of the show with the stirring “Underdogs” and proceeded to serve up an hour-long, 13-song set on Friday the 13th that concluded with a love song that he co-wrote, the No. 1 smash hit “I’m Coming Over.” Highlights in between included his good-time tune “Save Water, Drink Beer” and his duet with Cassadee Pope (who appeared via video) on the reflective ballad “Think of You.”
Young’s powerful voice is best showcased on tried-and-true country themes, such as on “Tomorrow,” which deals with an acknowledged broken relationship, but a reluctance to part ways: “But tonight I'm gonna give in one last time, rock you strong in these arms of mine.”
And then there’s “Gettin’ You Home (The Black Dress Song),” which he took to the top of the country charts back in 2009. His reliable, faultless delivery on the catchy song has made it a fan favorite that he still includes in his concerts. Gotta love it – and him.
Talented newcomer Kane Brown opened the show with a seven-song set that featured his first gold single, the passionate “Used to Love You Sober,” his new single, “Heaven,” and his No. 1 hit “What Ifs,” which he recorded with Lauren Alaina.