Dierks Bentley Shows True Grit In Nashville
It's fair to wonder if, had Dierks Bentley's What the Hell Tour busses been parked in any other city on Saturday night (Jan. 21), would the singer have taken the stage?
No, he's not known for canceling shows. In fact, he's known more for a tireless work ethic, a constant smile and for his love of bluegrass and hockey, two pastimes that require almost masochistic dedication. When the day began, Bentley could barely speak. But this was Nashville, the 41-year-old's hometown and home of a venue he'd dreamed of taking over for nearly two decades.
So Bentley took two steroids shots to the butt pre-show, sipped a mix of whiskey, warm water, Red Bull and vodka and beer during his 90-plus minute set and grew stronger with every song. Toward the end, as he stood alone on a stage set at the back of Bridgestone Arena (home to his favorite Nashville Predators NHL team), he confessed the song "Risers" concerned him. It requires range, power, nuanced emotion and it just means a heck of a lot. It was imperfectly perfect — one of the night's highlights.
"This is my Stanley Cup Game 7," he said four songs in, as any cracks were well on their way to healing. "This is the biggest show of my life."
Stars like Thomas Rhett and Chase Rice watched side stage. Bentley's wife and kids were on hand, and seemingly everyone that had been a part of him getting there was cheering him on. It's a group nearly large enough to fill the lower bowl of a venue that stands amidst the honkytonks and bars he came up playing after moving to Nashville in 1994. Yes, it's safe to say this show was personal.
"Up on the Ridge" was first. The energetic, bluegrass track is a calling card for Bentley now. It's the song he uses to introduce himself and it's a fine tempo-setter. Vocally it became clear he was battling during "Free and Easy" and "Tip It On Back," but those hiccups were footnotes by the time he approached the sensitive middle of his set. "Say You Do" led to the introduction of Elle King. Together they plowed through "Different for Girls" and her "Exs and Ohs" before Bentley shared "I Hold On."
Throughout the show personal touches like photos of his wife, kids and late dog Jake left you rooting for Bentley. He talked about this dream he was living repeatedly, often wearing the same guitar he started his career with around his neck. In a few more decades it may look like Willie Nelson's Trigger, except this one has signatures along the body from men named George and Garth.
"Home" followed "Riser" on the intimate stage. Then opener Cole Swindell returned for "Flatliner." "Somewhere On a Beach" broke up a four song mini-set of signature Bentley country-rockers. He went retro with "What Was I Thinkin'" and "Sideways" before repeating his encore from 2016. The plane fuselage is back, with the supposedly inebriated pilot doing his best to focus on the dials while he sings "Drunk On a Plane."
As he closed, it was his sold-out crowd that was buzzing.
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