Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Top Hat in Country: Paisley's a Good Pick; He Rules the Arena Show with a Promising Prelim by Chart-Topper Swift

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Top Hat in Country: Paisley's a Good Pick; He Rules the Arena Show with a Promising Prelim by Chart-Topper Swift

Article excerpt

Byline: ROGER BULL

In a country music sea of hats, Brad Paisley is floating a bit above just about any of the others in mainstream country.

There's a little less pretense and B.S., more clever songs and a whole lot better guitar playing. You had to like a lot of guitar to enjoy Paisley's concert Friday at Veterans Memorial Arena. The last time the arena saw that many guitar solos, Eric Clapton and Derek Trucks were on stage.

That's a lot of guitar. But he can play.

Friday night's concert represented a big chunk of the country charts right now. It's not often that an opening act has the No. 1 album, but that's where 17-year-old Taylor Swift's debut album is. Paisley's 5th Gear is right behind at No. 2. Kellie Pickler's Small Town Girl is at No. 19, after opening at No. 1 nine weeks ago. Jack Ingram's This Is It is No. 59 ... after being as high as No. 4.

The arena was close to full, but the night didn't really start off very well. Ingram and Pickler both turned in lackluster performances to start the show.

Ingram: He's been described as Outlaw Country, but other than a little Steve Earle rawness on Love You, it was pretty generic stuff. He did go over the top on self-promotion with a far-too-detailed explanation of how his song Wherever You Are made it to No. 1. "It was 39, then 38, then 29 ..." And that leads us to ...

Dumbest question of the night: "Anybody out here ever been in a relationship here in Jacksonville?" Yes, Ingram really asked that.

Pickler: She won a lot of hearts with her small-girl charm on last year's American Idol. Her voice is nice enough, though too much of it was lost under the music. She tried to be heard, treating almost every song as sing-as-loud-as-you-can without much touch or emotion. Even Red High Heels, a fun country radio song, ended up sounding like every other song she did. …

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