“FREE” is quite possibly the most important word in a college student’s vocabulary, so when Brad Paisley announced he was packing up his plethora of guitars and heading cross country on a FREE college tour, I’m pretty sure the cheers of coed country fans could be heard for miles. Naturally, I was logged on to my computer at 12:01 AM on August 26 to claim my spot among the 8,400 local Austin fans who would be crammed into the parking lot of UT’s baseball field on September 10 to watch one of country music’s biggest stars. When they opened the gates, my three friends and I booked it across the lot and somehow, unbelievably, managed to secure a spot at the front of the stage not three feet away from the mic. I knew then that it would be an amazing night!
Since we are in Texas it would have been sacrilegious if Brad hadn’t paid homage to our very own genre of Texas country, so it was appropriate that his opening act was none other than his old friend and Texas Country all-star Pat Green. Pat has been active on the Texas Country scene since 1995, and he hasn’t slowed down since. His song “Home” reached 5th on the country music charts when it was released this year. Pat is loved across the country, but he is especially revered at home in Texas. I mean, how could he not be with songs like “I Like Texas” and “Girls from Texas”? He certainly knows how to work the home-court advantage!
As Pat Green closed his set with “Wave on Wave”, Paisley warmed up backstage along with the Texas cheerleaders, UT’s mascot Hook’em, and his (by my count) eight guitars! At 8:40 he took the stage and his fans went wild as he opened with his hits “Crushin’ it” and “Mud on the Tires”. Donning a Texas Football t-shirt, he worked the crowd and made everyone cheer as he threw up his horns.
Nothing could put a damper on his performance, not even the 100% chance of rain that fell as he fittingly performed “Perfect Storm” and “Water”. It seemed as though the night could not get any better…but then Brad played a familiar tune on his guitar as he was joined on stage by Hook’em, and together they led the crowd of students in the most epic performance of “The Eyes of Texas” that I have ever witnessed.
From the quirky videos playing behind him on the big screen to his PAISLEY guitars (gotta love a man who embraces real-life puns), Brad put on an unforgettable show! I’m pretty sure the crowd could be heard all the way across campus as every soul at that concert screamed the lyrics to his closing number “River Bank”. I know I certainly had too much fun shouting the line “take a…LIME AND SUCK IT”.
While having a free tour geared toward college students might seem like an odd choice for a veteran artist like Brad Paisley, it was actually a pretty smart career move. With songs like “Alcohol”, “Crushin’ It”, and “Online”, Brad’s quirky sense of humor and social commentary are the perfect tools to reel in a population of young, college-aged fans. The cherry on top is his love for college football which inspired him to launch his tour at the start of the fall semester. His new single “Country Nation” is his theme song for the tour; it names dozens of college mascots, but focuses on how even though we might wear different colors on game day we are still united through country music. With its quasi-patriotic sound, it really is the perfect anthem to bring students together, and it certainly didn’t hurt that it expanded Brad’s fan base in the process.
“We’re Mountaineers, we’re Volunteers/We’re the Tide that rolls, we’re Seminoles/We’re a heard of Longhorn steer…On two thousand country stations/Yeah we’re one big country nation that’s right”
In spite of the criticism Brad faces as he veers more toward the bro-country style, I’m not ashamed to say that I fan-girled the entire night, and my heart skipped a beat when he performed a guitar solo an arm’s length away from me. This was definitely one of the best concerts I’ve ever attended and it was a perfect start to the new school year. So thank you, Brad, for the FREE concert and for just being you. You were certainly Crushin’ It on that stage all night long!