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Making it look easy

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ELECTRIFYING: Bentley.
  • ELECTRIFYING: Bentley.

Dierks Bentley and Miranda Lambert
Alltel Arena
March 10

At least a couple of things have changed since Dierks Bentley last played Little Rock.

He cut his mop of light brown curls into a crewcut earlier this year for his current video and, more importantly, he now gets top billing at the concerts that keep him on the road about 300 days a year.

He wears both changes well.

He looks a tad older and more mature with the shorter hairstyle, and he obviously relishes the opportunity to be the star attraction.

No stranger to Central Arkansas thanks to opening gigs with the likes of George Strait and Kenny Chesney, Bentley was back at Alltel Arena in North Little Rock Saturday night, this time as the headliner before an audience of 5,531 people. He worked the enthusiastic crowd into a frenzy and put on one terrific show while doing all the things that make fans love him even more. He pulled a young lady onstage for “Come a Little Closer,” took a picture of himself with another fan’s digital camera, and, at one point, ventured into the audience.

He works hard at making it look easy and in the process manages to make the stage his own. After opening with “Every Mile a Memory,” he was all over the place, bouncing and sprinting across the stage while performing crowd-pleasers like “Lot of Leavin’ Left to Do” and “Settle for a Slowdown.”

And leave it to Dierks to set up a party atmosphere and then provide a little good-natured, tongue-in-cheek group therapy.

After Miranda Lambert, his sassy opening act, offered up “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” Bentley countered with “How Am I Doin’,” calling it the guys’ response to her song.

He and the talented foursome behind him went bluegrass acoustic for a couple of songs, setting up in a small area of the stage that extended into a general admission section of fans.

Before closing with the ever-popular “What Was I Thinkin’,” he served up the rowdy “Domestic Light & Cold,” slowed it down a bit with a bluesy portion of Hank Williams’ “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” and dedicated “My Last Name” to members of the military and their families.

A thunderous ovation brought him back to the stage for an encore that included “Band of Brothers” and Lambert joining him on a cover of Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues.”

With Academy of Country Music nominations as Top Female Vocalist and Top New Female Vocalist, Lambert wasn’t just any opening act. She packed 13 songs into a fast-paced set highlighted by the nostalgic “Me and Charlie Talking,” a rockin’ cover of the Band’s “Cripple Creek” and her new single “Famous in a Small Town.”

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