With themes of little white tank tops, cold beer, good friends and escaping the workweek and the city for simple pleasures, country star Dierks Bentley’s music was the perfect soundtrack for the weekend and a sayonara to summer.
Bentley capped more than seven hours of live music Saturday at the Y’allapalooza festival at Cricket Wireless Amphitheater. By the time his 75-minute set closed with the energetic “What Was I Thinkin’, ”, the pleasant summer sun had been replaced with an autumnal chill. The sight of so many goosebumps and hoodies made “Summer on Fire” seem almost wistful.
The themes may have been familiar, but Bentley is a master of wrapping them in different arrangements while keeping the choruses catchy and easy to sing with. Dueling guitar solos between pedal steel and wah-wah pedal in “Feel That Fire” demonstrated the five-piece band’s diversity. Banjo and fiddle propelled “Up on the Ridge,” one of the best moments of the set. Bentley worked alone for the moving “My Last Name.”
Big and Rich may have been absent for the last three years, but they haven’t forgotten how to party. The band’s “bigger is bigger” motto applied to everything that happened in their 65-minute set, from the thunderous opener, “Coming to Your City,” and the girls who held up signs to harvest phone numbers to the giant American flag onstage that necessitated reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and the hip-hop medley with Cowboy Troy.
The duo brought a seven-piece band to back them and performed one song from their upcoming album, their current single, “That’s Why I Pray.” (Ironically, it was preceded by a medley that encouraged the crowd to sing the f-bomb laden chorus of “The Roof is on Fire.”)
The trademark top hat gave away Big Kenny’s role as ringmaster of this country carnival. Unceasingly waving his arms, running around or screaming, Kenny was nearly manic onstage. His antics and the band’s hit-laden catalog had the biggest crowd of the day on their feet for the entire set.
Kix Brooks previewed material from his upcoming album and delivered favorites from his days with Brooks and Dunn in his set, which ran just shy of an hour. Fans weren’t familiar with “Complete 360,” but it sounded just fine sandwiched between “Lost and Found” and “You’re Gonna Miss Me When I’m Gone.”
A surprising high point was a banjo-fueled arrangement of Tom Petty’s “American Girl” blended with Dunn’s own patriotic anthem “Only In America.”