Blake Shelton has risen above and beyond the status of a country singer with a pocketful of No. 1 hits. He’s a celebrity now and the target of tabloids and websites that traffic in gossip, thanks in large part to his marriage to (and divorce from) fellow country star Miranda Lambert and his role as a coach/judge on the reality-talent show “The Voice.”
Shelton drew more than 16,000 fans to the Sprint Center on Friday night — an impressive crowd that indicates superstar status. Among the observers, if you believe sources like ET Online, was pop star Gwen Stefani, Shelton’s fellow “Voice” judge and current belle.
His two-hour show tapped into a discography that goes back 15 years, to when he was a fledgling neo-traditionalist who recorded songs in the vein of country icons like George Strait and Alan Jackson and then a country beach boy (a la Kenny Chesney) who enjoyed the sun, sand and a few Coronas as much as the next guy.
These days, Shelton also caters to the bro’ country posse, flying his country flag high in songs like “Kiss My Country Ass,” “Drink on It,” “Hillbilly Bone” (double-entendre intended) and “Boys ’Round Here,” a country-rap about girls, trucks, tobacco, beer and rednecks who never listen to the Beatles.
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He sang all four of those Friday night in the course of a show that was entertaining and energetic throughout, though the crowd got restless during the three-song solo/acoustic interlude. He dropped in several covers, including a worthwhile version of Conway Twitty’s “Goodbye Time” that made good use of Shelton’s voice, which, though not especially dynamic, can be soulful enough in an old-school way. He also sang his hit version of Michael Buble’s “Home” (in which about 10,000 fans lit up the place with their cellphones) and “Ol’ Red,” a song made well-known by George Jones and Kenny Rogers.
Shelton has a slew of Top 10 country hits, and he delivered most of them; each drew a hearty response from a crowd that was split pretty evenly between gender lines. Shelton is a man’s man who also shows his romantic and libidinous sides in songs like “Mine Would Be You,” which extols make-up sex, and “My Eyes,” which includes the line: “My eyes are the only thing I don’t want to take off of you tonight.”
He and his seven-piece band also threw down a few skyscraping country-rock anthems about heartache, like “She Wouldn’t Be Gone,” which quaked with plenty of melodrama (think “Total Eclipse of the Heart” or “Paradise by the Dashboard Light”).
The stage show featured a large cylindrical apparatus that broadcast some visuals and from which Shelton emerged at the show’s onset. The stage was shaped like a huge banjo, the neck being a runway that led to a smaller stage (where he delivered his solo set).
Other highlights: “Austin,” a well-crafted ballad that was his first hit, back in 2001; “Some Beach,” a breezy ditty with a Jimmy Buffett vibe; and “Gonna,” a rowdy country-rock song that, as the name implies, lists all the things he wants to do to the lady he’s “diggin’ on hittin’ on.”
He closed with another cover: the theme song to the film “Footloose,” a Kenny Loggins hit, then “God Gave Me You,” a devotional to love and the most important person in your life (after Him, that is). Whether he was singing it generically or to his own special someone in the room is for the tabloids to care about. Shelton has other things to be grateful for, including his ascending celebrity.
Neon Light; All About Tonight; Doin’ What She Likes; She Wouldn’t Be Gone; Kiss My Country Ass; Mine Would Be You; Over; Some Beach; Goodbye Time; Ol’ Red; Who Are You When I’m Not Looking; Gonna; My Eyes; Lonely Tonight; Hillbilly Bone; Sure Be Cool If You Did; The Baby; Nobody But Me; Austin; Drink on It; Sangria; Home; Honey Bee; Boys ’Round Here. Encore: Footloose; God Gave Me You.