MANSFIELD — Brad Paisley made it through exactly one verse of one song before he’d had enough of the standard country-singer pose of a man and an acoustic guitar. And so he heaved that acoustic to a member of his crew as another handed him a Telecaster so that “Southern Comfort Zone’’ could fly. The twanging, lightning-fast electric solo he spat out before it ended gave notice to all who were at the Comcast Center on Friday: Paisley would be his own guitar hero.
He might not have been half as charming otherwise. That’s not the insult it appears. Minus his fretboard skills, Paisley was humble and just a little sly; he was a party facilitator, not a leader by example. (The real joke behind “Celebrity” making fun of his public image is that he sort of has none.) But add some six-string wizardry and suddenly he seemed a lot more frisky. It helped temper his corny jokes — punny party songs like “Outstanding in Our Field,’’ coy flirtations like “Ticks,’’ the general goofballery of the puppet-headed Paisley mascot appearing periodically — by putting some solid substance behind it.
Speaking of solid substance, let’s talk about the hologram Carrie Underwood, shall we? It wasn’t simply a video of her singing on “Remind Me’’ (unlike earlier appearances by the likes of Alabama and Charlie Daniels) but a full-on simulation of her onstage, down to seemingly off-the-cuff actions and responses. When Paisley ended with “Let’s hear it for Carrie Underwood!,’’ she unnervingly clapped and waved to the crowd as if she were really there, which she was not. Then she was packed up.
Largely, though, Paisley kept his appeal decidedly low-tech. Even his blazing leads were used as judicious punctuation, so as not to get in the way of confidently joyous heart-pumper “The Mona Lisa,’’ the lyrical and lightly bluesy “Then,’’ or the honky-tonk swing of “I’m Gonna Miss Her.’’ And he closed with the woozy (but not stumbling) sway of “Alcohol,’’ going for broke on guitar one last time.
The Henningsens opened with pleasant heartland rock given a slight tartness by Clara Henningsen’s clear voice. Burly-voiced Lee Brice followed with boisterous, by-the-numbers party country that descended into earnest, bland anthems of promise. With an easygoing charm, Chris Young did better on the latter front, singing songs like “The Man I Want To Be’’ like a decent man trying to be better rather than a hellraiser looking for forgiveness.Marc Hirsh can be reached at official
firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @spacecitymarc.