Brantley Gilbert is touring on his latest album, “The Devil Don’t Sleep,” released in January. Like its three predecessors, “Devil” is filled with songs about small-town country living, loving and carousing, with occasional parables about God and religion. He set the evening’s mood by opening with one of its tracks, “It’s About To Get Dirty,” in which he coaxes a lady to slip into a “bikini top and cutoff jeans” and head out to a mudhole during a rain – “dirty” to be taken literally and figuratively.
He sustained the vibe with “My Kind of Party,” a track from his 2009 debut album that later became a hit for country superstar Jason Aldean, a song about jumping into a pickup and heading out to the boondocks to whoop it up with a lady and friends.
Gilbert was backed by a five-piece band that looked like a potpourri of a classic Southern rock band and a punk band, thanks to drummer Ben Sims’ prodigious yellow Mohawk hair cut. They delivered an onslaught of rock riffs and jams, delivering a few intros from classic-rock bands like Led Zeppelin and Kansas.
Brantley broke into country music first as a songwriter, and he sang one of his best-known songs early: “Dirt Road Anthem,” a song he co-wrote with Colt Ford that became Aldean’s biggest hit (sales of more than 4 million) in 2011. Gilbert asked the crowd to take over one of the choruses, and the response was loud and feverish.
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Sporting a wool cap – not many cowboy hats in this crowd – and a tank top that bared his beefy arms and a tattoo sleeve, Gilbert, when he wasn’t playing guitar, patrolled the stage with an air of menace, like bouncer in a strip club, speaking and singing in a gooey Southern drawl. He glad-handed with fans up front and stoked the crowd into several other rowdy singalongs, especially during “The Weekend,” a rock anthem with a catchy melody.
He touched upon religion in “One Hell of an Amen,” during which the video screens turned into stained-glass windows; the ritual of bar fights in “Step Outside”; the love of his life, his wife, Amber Cochran, during “You Don’t Know Her” and “Outlaw in Me,” during which she made an appearance on the video screens; and the Second Amendment and domestic violence during “Read Me My Rights,” in which he sings about taking the law into your own hands when necessary.
That was the one-song encore to an evening that redeemed its promise: a night light on garnish and gimmicks but larded with little rock songs with a loud, heavy Southern country vibe.
It’s About to Get Dirty; My Kinda Party; Country Must Be Country Wide; Rockin’ Chairs; Dirt Road Anthem; My Baby’s Guns N’ Roses; You Don’t Know Her Like I Do; Small Town Throw Down; Tried to Tell Ya; One Hell of an Amen; Outlaw In Me; The Weekend; Take It Outside; Bottoms Up. Encore: Read Me My Rights.