Brad Paisley is almost 20 years younger than George Brett, but he is keenly aware of Brett’s stature in Kansas City.
Early into his set at the Sprint Center on Friday night, Paisley reminded the crowd of more than 9,000 that he had something in common with Kansas City’s most revered sports hero: They were born in the same hospital in Glendale, W.Va.
Referring to Brett’s hall-of-fame athletic talents, Paisley said, self-deprecatingly: “Obviously, it wasn’t something in the water.”
Paisley is famous for being one of the most gifted guitarists in country music, but he is also renowned for being an entertainer, evidenced by his long-running gig as co-host of the Country Music Association Awards show, during which he flashes his dry, wry, comedic flair.
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Friday night, Paisley was in typical form. Among the many songs he performed he dropped in a slow but steady stream of jokes and one-liners, a few prompted by shenanigans he conducted with fans in the front rows.
He was joined nearly the entire night on stage by fans drinking adult beverages at the two bars that flanked Paisley and his seven-piece band. For several songs, one of the bars was populated by eight soldiers, all in camouflage uniforms, who were brought out as part of a salute to the U.S. military. “Drink up,” he told them. “You deserve it.”
As he started into “This Is Country Music,” he handed the guitar he’d been playing to a young boy in the front row. After determining the boy was with a friend, Paisley said, “You guys are going to fight over that. I’m going to give you something else later.”
He autographed a sign bearing the Nationwide logo — a reference to the commercials Paisley does with Peyton Manning. When someone asked where Manning was, Paisley noted Manning was in Daytona, Fla., for this weekend’s Daytona 500. He deadpanned: “He’s driving the pace car. I hope he wrecks.”
A few times, he took phones from fans standing along the stage and took photos. During one of those episodes, he went through the woman’s roster of phone apps, which included Lyft and Uber: “She’s been drinking. She’s going to need a ride.”
He also investigated her Amazon Prime purchases. As he did, he recalled doing the same at a previous show and letting that crowd know that the woman had bought her husband a pharmaceutical product that advises customers to call a doctor if the effects “last more than eight hours.”
The jokes and one-liners were plentiful but secondary to the music – more than two dozen songs that showcased Paisley’s illustrious discography, which goes back nearly 20 years and comprises 11 studio albums and includes more than 18 No. 1 country hits.
He opened with “Last Time for Everything,” a track from “Love and War,” the album he released in April. He ended that with a few measures of Prince’s “Purple Rain,” the first of several musical tributes.
Before “Old Alabama,” he and the band bounded through a bit of “Mountain Music” by Alabama. He showed off his rock-guitar prowess during a swath of Van Halen’s “Hot for Teacher.” And during “Whiskey Lullaby,” he and Lindsay Ell, one of his three openers, swerved into the dueling guitar solos from the Eagles’ “Hotel California.”
Paisley is a guitar virtuoso and his skills were on display all night. He also gave his band of ringers plenty of room to flash their skills, most demonstratively during an instrumental jam in the second half of the nearly two-hour set.
Behind him and the band, a mammoth video screen broadcast an array of images, such as official videos to whatever song they were playing, home-movie footage from Paisley’s youth and other assorted visuals.
The set list swayed back and forth from tender or sentimental ballads, like “Today,” “Waitin’ on a Woman” and “Then” to party numbers like “River Bank” and “Crushin’ It” to his more comical numbers like “Ticks,” “I’m Gonna Miss Her” and “You’ll Always Be My First (Cousin),” a tale of an inter-familial relationship.
He was joined on stage by his other two openers: Dustin Lynch, who accompanied Paisley on “I’m Still a Guy” and Chase Bryant, who chimed in on “American Saturday Night.”
All three openers were on stage with Paisley for the closer, a rowdy rendition of “Alcohol.” As that song came to its end, Paisley returned to the front of the stage and handed the cowboy hat he’d been wearing all night to the boy whose friend got that guitar. Not only is he a man brimming with dry wit, he is also a man of his word.