Concert Review: Brad Paisley Brings Style and Stamina to Matthew Knight Arena

Brad Paisley in Eugene, OR
So much style with Brad Paisley

Brad Paisley got a rousing welcome back to Eugene, OR on Thursday (four years and a day since his last visit) as a capacity crowd at the Matthew Knight Arena sang, danced and was thoroughly entertained by one of Nashville’s most popular artists.

Wait, what?

Brad Paisley of country music fame?

You’ll perhaps notice this review stands out as an anomaly to everything else on this website but yes indeed, you read correctly, not only did I see Brad Paisley, it’s not the first time and probably won’t be the last as he is genuinely an outstanding performer and musician. The fans, well, they’re of a different sort of breed which we’ll get into later.

Anyway, country music, at least Brad Paisley country music is something to experience live because the album version playing on your CD player at home or through the car radio hardly does it justice. It’s fun, rocking and not even close to the twang of yesteryear.

Sure, Paisley still sounds country but he comes across as a rocker at heart incorporating the classic stuff, modern fare, and a slice of alternative into much of his catalog. If the country women can cross over to pop then this country man certainly has every right to make a bridge into rock-n-roll.

Paisley started the show with “River Bank” the first of five songs from 2014’s Moonshine in the Trunk, his latest studio effort, and continued his love affair with “Water” off the critically acclaimed American Saturday Night before playing the title track to Moonshine.

Singer Brad Paisley in Eugene, OR
Country singer Brad Paisley

Paisley, known for his practical joking personality, brings that charm into his songs often translating into some of his best music and audience favorites. The tongue-in-cheek “Celebrity” and pretty hilarious “Online,” which if you haven’t seen the video click here, both got played as did “I’m Still a Guy” and the sexy “Ticks” from 2007’s 5th Gear. At the same time, he dives into some mature territory with “Whiskey Lullaby” and the coming of age “Letter to Me.”

Of course, Paisley firmly plants his roots in country music with tunes like “Perfect Storm” “Old Alabama,” an ode to the classic country band, and the fun “Mud on the Tires.” He got couples dancing with a few romantic favorites of the ladies “Everything to Me,” “Waitin’ on a Woman” and “Then” which he dueted with Cam, who started the evening as one of two opening acts, Eric Paslay, the other, who put in a strong set of his own.

Paisley, currently on his Crushin’ It world tour and backed by six other musicians, was efficient and flawlessly played 25 songs in about 100 minutes. He brings great stage presence and has fun with his audience often picking out cell phones to give the owner a keepsake they’ll forever remember. He also endeared himself to the home crowd by mixing up lyrics to include references to Oregon and really outdid it on “Country Nation” when members of the University of Oregon cheer squad emerged on stage as did the school’s mascot. Matthew Knight Arena is on school grounds where the basketball teams play.

His duet with Carrie Underwood brought the loudest cheers of the night and when Underwood appeared the crowd went nuts. She of course wasn’t there in the flesh but Paisley got a little creative and brought her under the tent by “facetiming” with her. Of course it was pre-recorded but seeing Underwood rush into her dressing room on the giant stage screen at the last minute to take up vocal duties was entertaining and made all the more real when the two engaged in conversation after the song.

Paisley plays like someone born with a guitar in his arms. He clearly enjoys the instrument and makes the most of every minute on stage. He’s not flashy, no revolving door of different guitars for every song, just a handful throughout the evening. He knows how to rock, fretting out solos on “Southern Comfort Zone” and a ripping standout alongside his fiddler Justin Williamson, and the catchy chorus like those on “American Saturday Night” and “Mud on the Tires” should make anyone a fan.

Now, normally these reviews focus on the stage and what happens there. Attending concerts brings you in the company of strangers and it’s always hoped you find like-minded people to spend a night enjoying a favorite artist. You’d think a genre that invokes God, country and Chevy trucks would bring a classier set of folk.

Not in Eugene, OR anyway.

Assigned seats are assigned seats but on the floor it seems anything goes at least for some people. What finally took the cake for me was when a um “gentleman” from another row felt the need to greet his friend next to me with an enormous brace that pushed me back into my chair nearly knocking me over. They remained there inches from me as I tried to keep from falling over but when the man realized he knew someone sitting a row behind I got pushed to the side as he thrust out his hand to shake. Again, his hand and arm remained firmly in position as I finally let gravity take over and I toppled over the chairs onto the floor.

I’ve been to Metallica concerts, Motley Crue concerts and numerous Social Distortion concerts where a pit exists for those who wish to get in other people’s way. I’ve seen drunks at a number of shows and been around them, avoided other melees, but can’t remember this type of rudeness.

I guess this is country music.

Brad Paisley Matthew Knight Arena (Eugene, OR) Setlist:

  1. River Bank
  2. Water
  3. Moonshine in the Trunk
  4. Celebrity
  5. The World
  6. Letter to Me
  7. This Is Country Music
  8. I’m Still a Guy
  9. She’s Everything
  10. Ticks
  11. American Saturday Night
  12. Whiskey Lullaby
  13. Beat This Summer
  14. Perfect Storm
  15. Old Alabama
  16. Waitin’ On a Woman
  17. Remind Me
  18. Southern Comfort Zone
  19. I’m Gonna Miss Her
  20. Country Nation
  21. Crushin’ It
  22. Mud on the Tires
  23. Online
  24. Then
  25. Alcohol