Aaron Lewis Gets Unplugged for New England

Aaron Lewis
Acoustic & Unplugged
February 16, 2012
Mohegan Sun Arena, CT

In a music world where production value and overpowering speakers are the  concert norm, Aaron Lewis took to an Arena stage with nothing more than a stool, a guitar, and a microphone.  Lewis is the former lead man of the rock band, Staind, who has recently come out with a solo country album, entitled “Town Line”.  On this night, he shared his mezmorizing voice with a rowdy New England crowd as he ripped through country songs, Staind songs, unreleased songs he has recently written, as well as a plethera of cover songs from all genres. 

He was joined onstage with what he said was “my friend Ben.  He makes me sound good and keeps the bus clean”.  Ben took to the role of Silent Bob as he simply aided Lewis with musical accents on the steel guitar or an accompanying acoustic guitar.  After awhile, you forgot Ben was even there as all the focus shifted to the tattooed crooner.  Lewis wore a red, white, & blue trucker hat with the words HICK scripted in blue.   After every single song, he smoked a new cigarette.  But for the most part he was full of smiles and seemed to make the unique setlist up as he went along. 

Right from the onset, he announced to the crowd: “it’s (the show) pretty loose tonight, I hope everyone realizes that”.  And indeed it was, he made jokes and took requests from the crowd.  It got to be a bit annoying when everyone from the crowd yelled out either “Country Boy” or “Outside” or “It’s Been Awhile” and Lewis must have agreed because halfway through the set, he said to stop requesting those songs because he would eventually play them.  However, there were a multitude of surprises in the setlist including “Mean” by Taylor Swift, “I’m With You” by Avril Levine, and “American Pie” by Don Mclean.  He may not have performed the full song of any of the covers he did, but he was clearly having fun on the stage and got a kick out of his song choices.  And in return, the crowd both laughed with him and sang along with no shame. 

Of course, Lewis performed his biggest “Staind” hits to the delight of the crowd.  Songs like “So Far Away” and “Outside” became instand sing-a-longs for the crowd.  However, the track he introduced as a song he “wore his vagina on his sleeve for” seemed to hit the crowd in all the right spots.  This, of course, was the hit “Tangled Up in You”.  In fact, he had to stop for a few seconds because he got choked up.  At the same time, a couple got engaged right in front of the stage. 

Above all, his country songs reigned supreme.  The song “Massachusetts” was responded to with cheers and yells as Lewis mentioned different areas of the state, such as the Berkshires, the North Shore, and Worthington.  He performed several new songs that will be coming out on a new country album which he said will forthcoming in June.  The standouts included “State Lines” and “Party in Hell”. 

“Party In Hell” was the song which stood out to me the most on this night.  The steel guitar shined as if it was an old school country tune.  His lyrics are humorous and cunnning:  ” I went to Saint Peter but he won’t let me in. So lets have a party and tell them I’m home. There will be Waylon and Whitney as well.  And Jamey Johnson will be drinking from a brown paper bag. So let’s have a party in hell”. 

Above all, when Lewis sang “Country Boy”, the song which garnered him mutliple country award nominations this past year, the Arena screen illuminated with an American Flag and the crowd responded with applause.  The patriotic song is full of self appreciation for who he is, what he stands for, and where he came from.  It is a breath of fresh air for a man who has created songs mostly full of depression and self loathing. 

I really enjoyed the show and wish more successful artists would do an acoustic and unplugged show.  Just hearing him discuss why he wrote certain songs and how they affected him was a pleasure.  And seeing the lighter side of Aaron Lewis made the night completely worthwhile and memorable. 

Video Clip of “Country Boy”

 Setlist:

  1. So Far Away
  2. State Lines
  3. Massachusetts
  4. I’m With You (Avril Levine Cover)
  5. Mean (Taylor Swift Cover)
  6. Free Bird (Lynyrd Skynyrd Cover performed with a Bob Dylan impression)
  7. Rooster (Alice in Chains Cover)
  8. Greatest Love of All (Whitney Houston Cover)
  9. Party In Hell
  10. I Remember You (Skid Row Cover)
  11. Fill Me Up 
  12. Open Arms
  13. Everything Changes
  14. What Hurts The Most (Jeffrey Steele/Rascal Flatts Cover)
  15. Tangled Up In You
  16. Blown Away
  17. American Pie (Don Mclean)
  18. Forever
  19. Take It Easy (Eagles Cover)
  20. Country Boy

   Encore
   21. Outside
   22. It’s Been Awhile

Dierks Bentley Goes Home To New York City

Dierks Bentley
iHeart Radio Theater, NYC
February 6, 2012

Original publication was on www.countrymusicislove.com

Dierks Bentley performed a private concert last week at the iHeartRadio Theater presented by P.C. Richard & Son, in NYC, in support of his new album, Home. Thanks to our friends at iHeartRadio, we sent ten lucky winners and their guest to the performance, and as he always does for us, Ryan Miller attended the show and was kind enough to recap the night. Here’s his review, along with pictures via iHeartRadio.

On February 7, the evening of his newest album release, Dierks Bentley performed a private, intimate concert at the iHeart Theater in New York City. Despite tickets being given out on an invite-only basis, the theater was packed with Dierks fans hoping for a sneak peak of some of his newest album’s material. They were not disappointed!

Jonathan Clarke, an on-air radio personality from New York City’s Q104.3, introduced Dierks and his band who went right into a new cut off of their new release, “Tip It On Back”. The song is simply about getting ready to go out to a party; very much a prelude to what is destined to be a great night. The song is simple but catchy and had everyone geared for the night.

Dierks’ appearance had changed quite a bit from his look over the past few years. Instead of the curly blonde hair he is well known for, he had a much shorter haircut with no sign of his famous curls. I overheard several women in the crowd debating which look they liked better, with the new look seemingly the winner.

The second song performed was his well known hit, “Feel that Fire” and the crowd responded with cheers and the night’s first sing-a-long. Dierks lifted his guitar vertically alongside his body in what has become his patented chorus move. Immediately after finishing the song he shouted to the New York City crowd “am I the only one who wants to get it on tonight?” It was obvious what was next, his latest No. 1 Billboard single, “Am I The Only One.” As he sang the party anthem, Dierks’ crowd interaction was impressive as he was pointing, waving, smiling and running around the stage. He even added a third verse in which he called the “NYC only verse” and spoke about partying in the streets of the big city.

He introduced his next song off of the new album as one inspired by the rock band Van Halen. He stated that Van Halen had an album that he loved when he was younger named “5-1 5-0” which was also the police code for criminally insane. This song was named after both of those. The song is a fast paced, excitable song which, in my opinion, would do wonderfully at country radio. He ripped off the leather jacket he was wearing and geared up for the bombastic song.

Next he slowed things down for a song titled “Come Around,” which he states was recorded as a duet with Karen Fairchild of Little Big Town. It’s a very bluesy sounding song with beautiful loving lyrics. This song also has the goods to be a big hit at country radio. He next re-called the four night “New York City residency” when he played four bluegrass shows in four nights in some of the most intimate venues of New York. He then gave the fans a taste of his bluegrass hit Up On The Ridge which truly showcased the immense skill the band contains.

He then introduced his next song as a “song that is not country.” He stated that he created it for a Jimmy Fallon television special described as the Pink Floyd series. He was asked to do a country version of the Pink Floyd classic “Wish You Were Here.” I was standing next to Jonathan Clarke of Q104.3 and could see how impressed he was, as a rock music DJ, that Dierks did such a great rendition of the song. With the steel guitar and a fiddle, he transformed the song into his own, while doing great justice to the original.

He followed up the song with his former No. 1 hit “Sideways” and his energy was at an all time high. He jumped into the crowd and was handing out the microphone to fans for the vocals. He next explained to the crowd that he has a 1959 Martin Guitar which always makes him feel like he is at home. He proclaimed that “Washington D.C. is the capital, but New York City is the pulse of the country. The whole country feels what happens here. And I feel like it is part of my home.” He then did a moving rendition of his latest single and title track of his new album, “Home.”

He finished off his set with arguably his most famous song to date, “What Was I Thinking.” He cranked the energy up to 10 for one final song, thanked the crowd for coming, and grabbed his fellow band members for a group bow. The theater gave him a standing ovation and, with the love that Dierks got from the crowd, you could tell why he considers NYC his ‘home.’

The iHeart Radio Theatre was a perfect venue for such an intimate concert which really allowed Dierks to give some inside information about why he wrote some of the new songs while showcasing the full band’s vast talent. All in all, it was an exceptional show in a fantastic venue. Thank you to CountryMusicIsLove, iHeart Radio, and Clear Channel Radio for such a great opportunity.  Photos courtesy of Jennifer Pottheiser for iHeartRadio.