Friday night, Jason Aldean played the first of his two sold-out shows at Fenway Park.
It was the first country concert at the park and given that it sold out in minutes, chances are Aldean’s Saturday show, which also sold out lickety split, won’t be the last. (Or at least the contemporary version of it that Aldean plays, which sometimes requires spelunking to find the “country” in some of his songs.) As he did at the Boston Strong benefit concert in May, Aldean came out swinging. As fireworks shot off the top of the stage, he lit into the barn burning “Crazy Town” and for 83 minutes kept up a brisk pace.
The Georgia native led his crackling five-man backing band through a professional, polished, and likable outsized arena country show, full of the big beats and brawny riffs of hits like “Johnny Cash” and “She’s Country” that have vaunted him to stadium status. (Although he promised an “epic” show, he should be careful throwing that word around, especially when a man nearly twice his age played a set more than twice as long at the same venue a few days earlier.)
Banter was generally kept to a minimum in favor of rocking but Aldean did talk about how excited he was to play Fenway since he’s a huge baseball fan who grew up with posters of Wade Boggs and Jim Rice adorning his walls.
Aldean showed off his humor while introducing his band members, trotting out photos of some unfortunate haircuts that led neatly into the bouncy sing-along “1994.” And he was earnest in his tribute to the city during the defiant anthem “The Only Way I Know,” flashing local images across the mammoth video screens that ended with the phrase “Boston Strong.”
Miranda Lambert got the crowd warmed up with her eminently appealing brand of sass and sensitivity. She shifted gears between blazing anthems like “Gunpowder & Lead” and “Mama’s Broken Heart” and gentle tearjerkers like “Over You” and “The House That Built Me” with the kind of ease and power that are the mark of a natural-born performer.
Sporting a fresh cast on his arm from a go-kart accident, Jake Owen won the award for the most local references, managing to insert the word Boston into every single song that he sang, multiple times in some instances, as well as the Red Sox, Sam Adams, and singing a snippet of “Sweet Caroline.”
Thomas Rhett kicked off the proceedings, gamely trying to animate the sparse crowd of early arrivals.