Pais­ley fol­lows sim­pler pat­tern

His show is full of catchy tunes, but this singer’s best work is de­fined by nu­ance.

Los Angeles Times - - CALENDAR - By Mikael Wood

Brad Pais­ley didn’t need an on­stage bar to prove he likes to have a good time. With a set list that in­cluded spir­ited party songs such as “Moon­shine in the Trunk” and “Al­co­hol,” the coun­try singer’s con­cert Fri­day night at the Hol­ly­wood Bowl was putting that across with mu­sic alone.

But two years af­ter his song “Ac­ci­den­tal Racist” sparked a firestorm he said was the re­sult of be­ing mis­un­der­stood, Pais­ley — one of Nashville’s sli­est, smartest song­writ­ers — is tak­ing ex­tra care to present his po­si­tions clearly. So there was the bar, a siz­able rec­tan­gle num­ber with what ap­peared to be work­ing taps pro­vid­ing drinks for per­haps a hun­dred fans over the course of the singer’s two-hour show.

Dur­ing “Al­co­hol,” about liquor’s abil­ity to “make any­body pretty,” the enor­mous video screen at the rear of the stage even of­fered a vis­ual ap­prox­i­ma­tion of the so­called beer-gog­gle ef­fect as Pais­ley played slide gui­tar with a bot­tle.

As it hap­pens, beer gog­gles would’ve come in handy for Fri­day’s gig, one of a few West Coast dates on Pais­ley’s Crushin’ It tour. Viewed the way some­one who’s been over­served might’ve viewed it — with lit­tle skep­ti­cism and plenty of en­thu­si­asm — the con­cert was a blast of catchy tunes, ca­sual gui­tar hero­ics and the good-na­tured but slightly raff­ish charm that’s made Pais­ley a su­per­star.

There was “Ticks,” in which he of­fers to in­spect a com­pan­ion for those hardto-find pests, and the easy com­edy of “Celebrity,” which came ac­com­pa­nied by a video de­pict­ing Pais­ley in a se­ries of rec­og­niz­able pop-cul­ture images, such as Mi­ley Cyrus’ “Wreck­ing Ball” video and Kim Kar­dashian’s Pa­per mag­a­zine cover.

“Re­mind Me,” per­formed here as a vir­tual duet with Car­rie Un­der­wood, demon­strated his soul­ful, ro­man­tic side.

And with a fierce solo he played while run­ning through the crowd, “South- ern Com­fort Zone” gave him the chance to f lex his rock-at­tuned chops — one in­di­ca­tion of why the Rolling Stones asked Pais­ley to open their up­com­ing show at Nashville’s LP Field.

Sub­jected to closer scru­tiny, though, Fri­day’s con­cert was less im­pres­sive, its broad strokes a be­trayal of the nu­ance that de­fines Pais­ley’s best work. That onthe-nose qual­ity sim­i­larly ham­pered “Moon­shine in the Trunk,” the singer’s dis­ap­point­ing 2014 al­bum, on which he straight­ened out his old com­plex­ity for sin­gle­minded songs like “Crushin’ It,” an ode to drink­ing that ac­tu­ally men­tions Bud Light by name.

The record was plainly in­spired by the up­roar over “Ac­ci­den­tal Racist,” Pais­ley’s in­fa­mously mis­guided med­i­ta­tion on Amer­i­can race re­la­tions. (Among its clum­si­est phrases: “I’m a white man living in the South­land / Just like you I’m more than what you see.”) Yet the singer has changed course much more el­e­gantly be­fore, as when he fol­lowed 2009’s lib­eral-utopian “Amer­i­can Satur­day Night” with the con­vinc­ingly down­home “This Is Coun­try Mu­sic.”

“Moon­shine in the Trunk,” by com­par­i­son, just felt like pan­der­ing to coun­try’s per­ceived core.

At the Bowl, Pais­ley skipped “Ac­ci­den­tal Racist,” of course, which likely up­set no one. But he also left out cuts such as “Cam­ou­flage,” a more as­tute take on the South’s com­pli­cated her­itage, and “Wel­come to the Fu­ture,” his thought­ful re­sponse to Pres­i­dent Obama’s elec­tion.

And each time he did play one of his knot­tier tunes — such as the new al­bum’s “River Bank,” a clever bro­coun­try par­ody that sends up the style’s clichés even as it em­braces them — Pais­ley seemed ea­ger to get through it, un­in­ter­ested in ex­plor­ing the mu­sic’s ap­peal­ing con­tra­dic­tions.

What­ever hap­pened to liq­uid courage?

Michael Robin­son Chavez Los An­ge­les Times

BRAD PAIS­LEY plays the Hol­ly­wood Bowl as part of his Crushin’ It tour.

Michael Robin­son Chavez Los An­ge­les Times

PAIS­LEY, one of Nashville’s smartest song­writ­ers, dur­ing his Bowl ap­pear­ance.

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