From: Ted Shaw, Windsor Star
Published: Monday, February 16, 2009
While the good old boys were revving their engines Sunday at the Daytona 500, Dierks Bentley was cruising down the rocking country highway at the Caesars Windsor Colosseum.
This Arizona son who was bred on the outlaw country of Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash may just be the thing country music needs right now.
The fact his new album knocked Bruce Springsteen out of No. 1 on the sales charts proves he's more than country music's flavour of the month.
The 5,000 who filled the Colosseum were treated to a dynamic, high-energy 80 minutes of southern-fried rock 'n' roll in the Lynyrd Skynyrd tradition.
A sound built on the blazing guitar solos of Saskatchewan native Rob Janzen, Bentley recalled another Canadian rocker -- Bryan Adams -- in his onstage performance.
This guy loves being in front of an audience. You can see it in his face and hear it in his voice.
Opening with the hit How Am I Doin', Bentley roared his way through a mostly up tempo set that included most of the songs that have taken him to the top of the country charts in the last five years.
Surprisingly for an artist relatively new on the scene, the audience sang along to many of the songs. Hits that included Come a Little Closer, Every Mile a Memory, Settle for a Slowdown, and the new one, Feel That Fire.
When the heavy metal guitar riff that opens Feel That Fire cut a swath through the auditorium, many of those who were still in their seats for the first couple of songs jumped to their feet and sang or clapped along.
Bentley may have the name of a classic car, but he's all Chevy pickup when he performs. Not exactly a redneck but definitely a long way from the designer country of Nashville, Bentley is a product of a rock generation weaned on U2.
He's got a little of Bono's charm and talent for charging up an audience, too.
A honkytonkin' song like Sideways, from the new album, showed the rowdy side in Bentley. Later, he showed a different side on the ballads I Wanna Make You Close Your Eyes, Long Trip Alone and Beautiful World.
Most of the time, he sang without a guitar, preferring to prowl the front of the stage and reach out his hands to the crowd.
But he's a serviceable player, and wields a well-worn 1969 Martin D-18 with authority. At one point, a member of the audience suggested Bentley give her the guitar. He jokingly agreed as long as she exchanged it for some of that "strong Canadian beer."
The show was paced to deliver the biggest emotional wallop in the least amount of time.
Among the other hits he touched on were So So Long, What Was I Thinkin,' and Come a Little Closer.
But when the opening chords of Free and Easy blasted through the speakers to open the encore, the audience responded with cheers and many sang along.
Just to remind everyone of his roots, Bentley finished the show with a rousing version of Johnny Cash's Folsom Prison Blues.
Bentley writes all of his own songs and while the lyrics are simple and homespun, the stories they tell are taken from everyday life.
The show opened with a video of Bentley backstage trying to score a beer from an inattentive crew. When he finally tracks down a drink, it's time to go on stage.
That self-deprecating humour went down well with the audience.