The Sprint Center had to be the loudest environment in Kansas City on Friday night. You can thank or blame Jason Aldean for that. It was his birthday, after all.
For about 90 minutes, one of country music’s biggest stars filled the downtown arena with a mix of rock, country and rap that felt like one prolonged cacophonous roar before a sold-out crowd that was in the mood for some raucous revelry.
The mood was set before Aldean took the stage. Florida Georgia Line, one of two openers, detonated the party mood during its high-volume performance, which included hell-raising rock anthems like “Party People,” “Round Here,” “This Is How We Roll” and its mega-hit “Cruise.” The arena was nearly full for its 45-minute set, a sign that this duo is on the verge of headlining its own arena shows.
Aldean is a rocker, unabashedly and unapologetically. He’s a country boy and a country fan, but his live shows are more hard-rock and metal than country, more AC/DC than Alabama. Backed by a four-piece band that issued powerful, jackhammer riffs all night, he opened with “Crazy Town,” an ode to Nashville, city of broken dreams: “Pay your dues, and you play for free / And you pray for a honky-tonk destiny.” He followed that with “Take a Little Ride,” a song about a truck, a six pack and a pretty girl in frayed, cut-off shorts and one of his eight No. 1 country hits. Then came another boy-loves-girl anthem, “When She Says Baby.”
He didn’t have a whole lot to say, but when he did speak in his deep Georgian drawl, Aldean expressed his gratitude to the huge crowd, often toasting it with sips of Fireball whiskey from a plastic cup. He performed most of his No. 1 singles, including “Big Green Tractor,” “Dirt Road Anthem,” “She’s Country,” “Flyover States,” his homage to middle America, and “Don’t You Wanna Stay.” On that one, he was joined by a life-size hologram of his duet partner, Kelly Clarkson.
She wasn’t his only company onstage. During “The Only Way I Know,” Aldean was joined by Brian Kelley and Tyler Hubbard of Florida Georgia Line, and during his his cover of Hank Williams Jr.’s “A Country Boy Can Survive,” he got some support from his other opener, Tyler Farr, who was sporting a No. 5 Royals home jersey.
That was one of several tunes about living the small-town, country, blue-collar life, all of which was red meat for this crowd. They sang a lot of the lyrics right back at Aldean, as if reciting a pledge or a prayer. He closed with a cover of Kid Rock’s “Cowboy,” one of a few rap-infused tunes (“Dirt Road Anthem” was another), then his first hit, “Hick Town,” another middle-of-nowhere anthem about small-town life: “Well, you can see the neighbor’s butt crack nailing on his shingles / An’ his woman’s’ smokin’ Pall Mall’s watchin’ Laura Ingalls.” Between Aldean and his band and the volcanic roar of the crowd, the volume in the arena felt as high as it did all night for those two songs. Maybe that’s the new show-biz adage: Leave them wanting more and with the encore ringing in their ears.
Crazy Town; Take a Little Ride; When She Says Baby; Big Green Tractor; The Truth; Fly Over States; Johnny Cash; Amarillo Sky; I Ain’t Ready to Quit; 1994; Don’t You Wanna Stay; A Country Boy Can Survive; Tattoos on This Town; My Kind of Party; The Only Way I Know; Dirt Road Anthem; She’s Country. Encore: Cowboy; Hick Town.