Concert Wrap: Dierks Bentley, April 7 @ Barnhill Arena

April 8th, 2010 at 4:44 pm

Dierks Bentley. All photos by KEVIN KINDER, NWA Media

Sometimes, a musical performance seems scripted.

And, why wouldn’t it? The songs that are played are the same every night. The crowds cheer at the same places of the night, and the stages always tend to look similar.

Sometimes, it more than SEEMS scripted, it is: I’ve even seen set lists on the stage that tell the main act when they are supposed to talk to the crowd and that indicated which anecdote to share at which time.

You know, Dierks Bentley has been at this thing for a while. He’s released four albums during the past seven years and has toured both as a headlining artist and as an opener for country heavyweights such as Brad Paisley.

But on a beautiful spring evening, Bentley was about as far from rote recitation as he could be. He sped around the stage with enthusiasm, shaking hands and serving as his own cheerleader. He wore fans’ cowboy hats. He took a picture of himself with a fan’s camera. He paused in the middle of his set to indulge in one of his loves outside country music — bluegrass — and sing a classic rock number.

What Bentley did on Wednesday night (April 7) at Barnhill Arena on the University of Arkansas campus was nothing that remarkable, really. He played middle-of-the-road country songs which leaned pretty hard toward sounding like rock songs. He clapped and sang. But when it’s delivered with such enthusiasm and believability, it was hard not to enjoy what was happening.

Click the ‘more’ link below to continue reading about Bentley’s concert on Wednesday night at Barnhill Arena.

Not only did Bentley seem enthusiastic, but he also seemed real. He stammered about during his introduction to the song “My Last Name,” eventually just saying he liked it.

He talked candidly about his love of the military. He talked of ex-girlfriends. He said he stopped by the Sigma Alpha Epsilon house(he was a collegiate member of that fraternity) on campus earlier in the day to say hello to the members.

He comes across as an average sort of person who hasn’t taken his fame for granted. He’s still has the illusion of working hard for his fans, and, if you’ve got the voice and good backing band to support the effort — and he does — it’s going to make for a pleasant evening.

The pacing of the set was well done, too, moving between slower ballads such as “Long Trip Alone” and uptempo rockers such as “Sideways” and “Little Heartwreckers.”

Bentley is getting ready to release an bluegrass album this summer, and he spent a few moments in the middle of the set exploring that territory, first with the title track of the forthcoming album, “Up On The Ridge,” and then with a bluegrass take on the Allman Brothers’ classic “Midnight Rider.” The songs were delivered from a single microphone on the middle of a platform that extended out from the stage, and both must be considered among the highlights.

The biggest response from the crowd — very much college age, due in large part to the free tickets that students got courtesy of the student-fees supported Headliners Concerts Committee — came during singalongs that were mustered for “Feel That Fire” and “Free And Easy (Down The Road I Go).”

The show may have been the least well attended (I’m guessing there were 4,500 to 5,000 there) of any of the Headliners shows that I was personally present at, but that never stopped Bentley during his 75-minute set.

Not in the least, in fact. He seemed grateful for every cheer he received. He acquired — and deserved — plenty of them.

Randy Rogers

About the opener: It’s a hard job for any band to find enthusiasm while a crowd is still arriving at the venue, but that’s what the Randy Rogers Band faced when they opened up the evening. Aside from the fiddle player, who looked as if he were more excited to be in the venue than anyone, Rogers and company didn’t seem to have much energy. They received the largest response during “One More Goodbye” and “Kiss Me In The Dark.” Not coincidentally, that was their last song.

Dierks Bentley Set List, according to the list attached to the soundboard: 1) Lot of Leaving Left To Do; 2) Trying To Stop You Leaving; 3) Feel That Fire; 4) So So Long; 5) Every Mile A Memory; 6) How Am I Doin'; 7) Close Your Eyes; 8) Long Trip Along; 9) Sideways; 10) Little Heartwrecker; 11) Settle For A Slowdown; 12) Up On The Ridge [acoustic bluegrass tune]; 13) Midnight Rider [Allman Brothers cover in bluegrass style]; 14) My Last Name; 15) Come A Little Closer; 16) Free And Easy (Down The Road I Go);

Encore: 17) What Was I Thinking; 18) Folsom Prison Blues [Johnny Cash cover]