Dierks Bentley @ PNC Bank Arts Center (5/18/14)

Dierks Bentley Riser Tour 2014
w/ Chris Young, Chase Rice, Jon Pardi

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I’ll start with a little background. I’ve seen Dierks Bentley three times before, twice opening up for Brad Paisley a handful of years ago and last year as a co-headliner with Miranda Lambert. But even last year’s tour felt like he was opening for arguably the most popular female Country artist who’s name isn’t Taylor Swift (that is if you still consider her Country). So when he released his new album “Riser” and announced a headlining tour, I couldn’t snatch those tickets quick enough!

After all the controversy and confusion about whether or not tailgating was banned at PNC, I rolled into the parking lots around 3 p.m. to a packed lot with hundreds of people drinking, grilling, blasting music and playing corn hole. Ah yes, the summer concert season has unofficially begun! There’s nothing like parking in a lot full of Country fans, unloading the car of chairs, tables, grills, coolers and corn hole and just having a blast. We cracked open a few beers, set up the table and corn hole, fired up the grill and had a good time for hours. The weather wasn’t the greatest though. It drizzled a few times and the sun barely made it through the clouds throughout the afternoon, but that didn’t stop the parking lot party!

About a quarter to 7 we packed up the car and walked into the venue. Our seats were the fourth row in section 303, not too shabby. First up was Jon Pardi. Didn’t really see much of his set but from what I saw he was having a good time with his band on stage, even though I didn’t know any of his songs until his closer, “Up All Night.”

Next was Chase Rice and he was everything you want to see in an opening act. He came out like a ball of energy, sporting his baseball cap and sunglasses while getting the crowd involved with audience participation. Even though I didn’t know any of his songs, be put on a very up-tempo, inspired performance. It’s one that makes me want to pick up a copy of his album, which I’ll sure to do sometime this week. Anyway, Chase Rice’s rise to fame came from his co-writing the huge hit “Cruise” performed by Florida Georgia Line. Rice even went on to perform his version of the song, which was great. At the end of his set, he explained how he saw himself as a songwriter only, but fell in love with playing with the band and performing live that he had to give it a shot. I see a bright future ahead for Chase Rice.

Finally, it was time for Dierks Bentley to hit the stage. Being the headliner gives you plenty of freedom for how you want to set your performance up, including the stage design. Dierks had a huge LCD screen at the back of the stage, with another stage centered with a set of stairs on both sides. His drummer was off to the left on a platform and there were microphones on both sides of the stage along with two in the center. He came out after a brief remix of 5-1-5-0 to perform his hit to a packed house singing along and holding up 5-1-5-0 fingers during the chorus. Dierks has always brought a ton of energy to his performance, but there was something special about this specific Sunday night. He promised a great time and he sure did deliver!

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He performed his first five songs without any interruptions or comments in-between songs, something Dierks does often to keep the flow of the show going smoothly. During his current single, “Drunk on a Plane” he admit that it was killing him to not turn around and watch the hilarious music video. Finally he took a breath to welcome the New Jersey crowd, to thank them for what he said always felt like his “second home” and to state that he’s ready to make an every lasting memory with every person present. Naturally, he transitioned into “Every Mile a Memory.”

Towards the middle of his set, he walked through the crowd with his band during a cover of “Counting Stars” by OneRepublic, to a stage set up towards the back of the amphitheater. This is something every Country artist does, but Dierks admit that he’s never done this before, but being the headliner this year he’s finally able to do so. When they asked him where he wanted the stage he responded with, “As close to the lawn as you can get me!” This got a big roar from the cheap seats. Dierks continued with an Avicii cover of “Hey Brother.” You could feel how personal this show was for Dierks, as he reminisced about one of his first concerts he ever attended, with a New Jersey artist. Like a default response, the crowd began chanting “Bruuuuuuuuce!” But he corrected the audience, “I wasn’t that cool to see Bruce. I was a Bon Jovi guy!” He then played an acoustic cover of “Livin’ On a Prayer,” which he simply allowed the crowd to sing all the words to. “This is the biggest karaoke bar ever!” he shouted.

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He finally made his way back to the main stage after introducing his band to the crowd. Even though Dierks isn’t one of the top bills in Country music, his passion and the effort he puts into every show proves he deserves to be in the discussion among the best performers in the world. I didn’t want the show to end because I was having such a great time. Several times Dierks claimed he was “having the best night of my life!” It’s hard to imagine that he wasn’t because there was never a moment he wasn’t smiling or high-fiving fans within reach. He also shotgunned a beer with a fan near the stage and while on the B-stage he was handed a beer and a boot.  Simply put, Dierks is a fantastic performer with plenty of great songs that made this Sunday Funday one to remember. He definitely made a memory for me to save.

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Dierks Setlist:

1. 5-1-5-0
2. Free and Easy (Down the Road I Go)
3. Am I the Only One
4. Tip It on Back
5. Drunk on a Plane
6. Every Mile a Memory
7. Lot of Leavin’ Left to Do
8. Up on the Ridge

B-stage

9. Counting Stars (OneRepublic cover)
10. Hey Brother (Avicii cover)
11. Livin’ On A Prayer (Bon Jovi cover)
12. Settle for a Slowdown

Back to Main Stage

13. Come A Little Closer
14. Feel That Fire
15. I Hold On

Encore:

16. Riser
17. What Was I Thinkin’
18. Sideways
19. Home

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