Jason Aldean cruised into Darien Lake Performing Arts Center for the third time in as many years Saturday night, once again playing for a sold-out crowd. Though there weren’t any surprises from Aldean, the show featured hit after hit after hit, which is exactly what the 21,000 fans crammed into the lawn and arena were looking for.
It all started with the lights going up, revealing an elaborate stage featuring a huge, 3-D letter “A” covered in monitors that slowly rose from the ground and tilted toward the audience. As virtual flames raked over the screens, actual fire shot up from the sides. The “A” lowered back slightly, and out came Aldean. The 2014 Burn It Down Tour had begun.
“Hick Town” started things off, as fire bursts, fireworks and explosions continued to periodically punctuate the show and flames licked along the screens in the back. “My Kind of Party” followed – with the on-screen fire replaced with a lineup of bouncing, writhing women – along with “Tattoos on This Town.”
Aldean also delved into the farm life side of country music, with the earnest “Amarillo Sky” and then the kitschy “Big Green Tractor,” with the monitors now showing closeups of Aldean and his band. “Fly Over States,” “Crazy” and “Night Train” followed. He also gave fans a taste of a few newer songs, like “1994” and “When She Says Baby.”
Normally I’d mention which songs were hits and which were lesser known, but every single song was a hit – no exceptions. The crowd voiced appreciation in one continuous roar, and Aldean plowed through his repertoire with few pauses. The biggest crowd-pleaser of the night seemed to be “Take a Little Ride With You,” an ode to Chevy trucks, that – judging by the wall of noise returning to the stage – had even the Ford diehards singing along.
Though the lyrics and sound to every song were decidedly country, Aldean was oddly juxtaposed with a trio of electric guitarists backing him up throughout the show. They looked and sounded like they would be more at home at a rock show, but their playing really lent some oomph to Aldean’s songs.
Florida Georgia Line excelled as an opener, getting the vocal crowd on its feet from the first song. Strutting around in black muscle shirts and tight pants and covered in tattoos, Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley looked more like rockers that crooning country boys. But, man, were they having fun.
They sang “Stay,” originally by Black Stone Cherry, an unremarkable, cliché-ridden ballad, before launching into upbeat “This Is How We Roll” and the brand-new “Dirt,” both proving to be huge crowd-pleasers. Music videos for each song served as the band’s backdrop, all of them featuring just what you would expect: big trucks, sultry girls and dirt roads.
The boys ended by addressing their touring lifestyle with a spot-on cover of Alabama’s twangy, catchy “I’m in a Hurry (and Don’t Know Why)” and then an enthusiastic take on their smash hit “Cruise.”