2011 Taste of Country Awards: Tour of the Year
Throughout the week, nominees for the 2011 Taste of Country Awards -- our inaugural fan-voted awards -- will be announced in full. Here are the Tour of the Year nominees, one of 10 awards categories that will be revealed. Country music tours have become elaborate productions in recent years, and the five nominees for the 2011 Tour of the Year award are masters of execution. While there is some overlap, each tour represents a distinct cross-section of fans. If you managed to take in concerts from Brad Paisley, Jason Aldean, Keith Urban, Kenny Chesney and Taylor Swift two things are certain: You made the most of your summer, and your bank account balance is likely a whole lot lower.
Brad Paisley – H2O II Tour: Paisley's tour featured an impressive lineup of opening acts, including arguably one of the hottest male artists in country music, Blake Shelton. In addition to the fun onstage, fans could take part in a mini water park offstage. The year before, Paisley forever changed what country fans expect from a summer amphitheater show, and 2011's encore version raised the bar further. No longer can most artists bring just a guitar and his cowboy hat and expect fans to spend $50-$100 on a ticket.
Jason Aldean – My Kinda Party Tour: A year ago, the idea of Aldean headlining a summer tour seemed optimistic at best. Now, after a string of sold-out summer dates, those naysayers are left searching for someone new to pick on. The 'Dirt Road Anthem' singer brought Chris Young and Thompson Square with him on the road, but it was his four albums worth of hits that filled up venues across America.
Keith Urban – Get Closer Tour: Jake Owen opened Urban's arena tour in 2011. In terms of pure entertainment and musicality, it's tough to beat Urban's set. He plays for almost two hours and brings fans right into the action by inviting some onstage or wandering deep into the audience to shake hands with others. On his 2011 tour, the singer performed with a confidence he's never shown before, and his fans are the primary beneficiaries.
Kenny Chesney - Goin' Coastal Tour: While other artists on this list are selling out 15-20K seat amphitheaters, Kenny Chesney is selling out 70K seat football stadiums. He's able to attract openers like the Zac Brown Band to follow him across the country, even though they could easily headline their own nationwide tour. Even after a year off in 2010, Chesney proved he is still the king of the road in 2011.
Taylor Swift – Speak Now Tour: The Speak Now Tour is a Broadway show on wheels. From the costume changes to the set design, Swift's production is a two-hour long visual extravaganza. Anyone with an open mind will appreciate what the superstar brings to fans each night, and fans have justified her creativity with with a long string of sold out tour dates, often back-t0-back in the same city.
Vote for the 2011 Taste of Country Awards' Tour of the Year here, or on the 2011 Taste of Country Awards full categories page. Voting ends on Jan. 1, 2012 at 11:59PM ET. Winners will be announced on Jan. 3, 2012.