On the final weekend of the Brad Paisley Crushin’ It winter tour, it was sure to be an entertaining evening with Eric Paslay opening the show.

As the crowd arrives outside the Dow Event Center, there is a small community setting up inside. Semi tractors and trailers all wrapped with Brad Paisley’s figure on them line up for city blocks. Such a spectacle makes it evident the evening is going to be more than just a singer playing guitar standing behind a microphone.

Music can be heard upon entering the venue. The Matt Ryan Band from Bay City, Michigan is playing in the Red Room as part of the pre-show entertainment.

The band consists of Matt Ryan (lead vocals and guitar), Randy Badour (rhythm guitar and vocals), Gary “Geezer” Carson (lead guitar), Derrick “Baby D” Fisher (bass guitar), and Matthew “Kozmo” Kramer (drums).

With a song list ranging from heartfelt ballad originals like “I’m Here” to upbeat covers like Brantley Gilbert’s “Bottoms Up,” the Matt Ryan Band demonstrates much potential for the future. It is evident as they fill the room with eager fans.

Matt Ryan Band @ Dow Event Center in Saginaw, MI | Photo by John Reasoner

Matt Ryan Band @ Dow Event Center in Saginaw, MI | Photo by John Reasoner

In the main arena, the crowd takes their seats with the sense of excitement in the air. The stage sits in darkness, and the crowd takes the opportunity to get familiar with their nearby dance partners for the evening.

As the arena lights dim, the crowd roars with enthusiasm as Eric Paslay walks out on stage. Strapped with a guitar over his shoulder, he came out playing and singing a “Song About A Girl.”

Eric, at 6’4 and fiery-red hair, is a breakout country artist and award-winning songwriter. He joined Brad’s Crushin’ It winter tour back in January. With each performance, he is a bit more relaxed as he dances around on stage while playing and singing.

Introducing himself to the crowd for those that didn’t already know him, Eric performs songs from his self-titled debut album, including “She Don’t Love You,” “Never Really Wanted,” “Less Than Whole,” and “Keep On Fallin’.”

Eric also plays a few new songs, “Dressed In Black” and “Water Into Wine,” from his upcoming new album, along with his current hit, “High Class.”

During the song, Eric shows off his dance moves while sporting a pair of sunglasses and walking out onto the catwalk to center floor. He dances and sings his way as he stops to shake hands with the crowd in the process. At the end of the song, Eric throws his sunglasses into the crowd as a souvenir to a lucky attendee.

Adding to the show, Eric also includes two of his No. 1 songs he wrote for other artists, like “Barefoot Blue Jean Night” for Jake Owen and “Even If It Breaks Your Heart” for the Eli Young Band.

Thanking the crowd for allowing him to do what he enjoys doing, Eric ends his set by playing another one of his No. 1 songs that he wrote, this time for himself, with “Friday Night.”

The crowd responds wildly, showering praise upon the artist. They never leave their feet as they stand during his whole performance dancing and swaying to the beat of the music. In just a short time on stage, Eric has shown there is more to this artist than just putting words on paper as the entertainer in him is starting to break through with a promising career ahead.

Eric Paslay @ Dow Event Center in Saginaw, MI | Photo by John Reasoner

Eric Paslay @ Dow Event Center in Saginaw, MI | Photo by John Reasoner

After a short intermission for the stage change over, it is time for the main attraction. As the band starts to play, off to the right, Brad appears above the stage on a platform playing a musical intro. He descends stairs walking to center stage as the band jumps into “River Bank.”

With the title track to his current album, Moonshine In The Trunk, the lead guitarist and fiddle player join Brad on the catwalk. Without missing a lick on his guitar, Brad returns to the stage and is joined by Eric Paslay in singing “Celebrity” while Brad’s mascot character runs out onto the catwalk to shake hands and take photos with the crowd.

During the next song, “This Is Country Music,” Brad swaps his acoustic guitar for an electric guitar. Instead of handing the acoustic off to his guitar tech, Brad signs the guitar and gives it to a child in the audience, as the crowd erupts in cheers.

As Brad and his band started into his current single, “Country Nation,” a video appeared on a 60-foot wide screen behind the stage showing all the different college mascots from the song. Each time a glimpse of Michigan State University or the University of Michigan appears on screen, the noise level escalates as the crowd roars with cheers. Brad then changes the song up a little bit by calling out the Ohio State Buckeyes, which leads to boos from the Michigander crowd until he relents and switches back to calling out the MSU Spartans and the U of M Wolverines.

At the left side of the stage sits a bar that, throughout the night, ten people, all fans, come up and sit for a segment of the show. They leave another group of ten people takes their place.

Standing out at the end of the catwalk, Brad sings “She’s Everything.” He grabs a young lady’s phone in the crowd and records a video selfie of him singing with the stage and crowd in the shot.

In “Old Alabama,” Brad is joined via video by country super group Alabama. During the musical segment of the song, Brad is escorted along through the crowd to a small stage at the back of the arena, all while playing his guitar and never missing a note.

Playing to the back of the venue, he takes a moment to joke with the crowd. He jokes about how people tell kids that high school is the best times of their lives, and it is not. It is the worst thing you can say to a teen. College, on the other hand, is entirely different. The crowd broke out in laughter and cheers.

He jokes about how great Eric is and then discusses how two Irish families came from Ireland 150 years ago, but only one knew how to spell Paisley; the one who included the letter “I.”  The crowd roared in laughter once more.

Being from the state of West Virginia, Brad took a yellow U of M hat and with his black sharpie marker, put the West Virginia logo on the bill of the hat and threw it into the crowd stating that the Wolverines / Mountaineers cap is a one of a kind. He and his band then play “Southern Comfort Zone” on his return to the main stage.

Next, Brad calls out a young boy named Jacob to play a video game, “Mario Cart,” against Eric Paslay up on the big screen behind the stage. They both sat in little chairs on stage playing the game and racing each other as Brad and his band play into a musical extravaganza. At the end of the game, Jacob had beaten Eric. For winning, Brad turns to Jacob and rewards him handing him the red electric guitar that he just finished playing.

At the conclusion of “Crushin’ It,” the title track to his tour, Brad takes a moment and stops the music so that he can make sure everyone is having fun. While many artists say that, Brad is sincere and wants his concert-going fans to leave feeling they got his or her money worth.  He then ended his show with “Mud On The Tire.”

With the crowd still full of energy as they were when they first arrived, they called Brad back out for an encore that included “Online,” “‘Then,” and finished with “Alcohol.”

Throughout the show, Brad never stopped playing guitar. He played as he stood behind a microphone to sing. He played as he ran across arena floor from one stage to another. Moreover, he never missed a note. Brad has proven himself to be a true musical artist.

Brad Paisley has achieved 23 No. 1 hit singles, and numerous ACM, CMA, and Grammy Awards. After watching how he performs on stage and his ability to connect with the crowd, it is easy to see why he has earned such lofty titles as Top Male Vocalist of the Year, Artist of the Year, and Entertainer Of The Year.

Brad Paisley
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Eric Paslay
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Matt Ryan Band
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Dow Event Center
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Brad Paisley setlist:

River Bank, Water, Moonshine In The Trunk, Celebrity, This Is Country Music, Beat This Summer, Perfect Storm, Country Nation, Wrapped Around, American Saturday Night, I’m Still A Guy, She’s Everything, Ticks, Old Alabama, Letter To Me, Southern Comfort Zone, I’m Gonna Miss Her, The Nervous Breakdown, Crushin’ It, Mud On The Tires, Encore: Online, Then, Alcohol

Eric Paslay setlist:

Song About A Girl, Like A Song, Never Really Wanted, Barefoot Blue Jean Night (Jake Owen cover), She Don’t Love You, Dressed In Black, (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction (Rolling Stones cover), Water Into Wine, Even If It Breaks Your Heart (Eli Young Band), High Class, Less Than Whole, Keep On Fallin’, Friday Night