Summerfest 2019: Jason Aldean hits the country-rock sweet spot in energetic show
Expectations are high when you are the reigning Academy of Country Music entertainer of the year —- two years running.
For Jason Aldean, those awards have been the result of a slow, steady build of which Milwaukee has been a key part, with regular Summerfest visits across the past 15 years. Friday night, he brought his biggest production yet to a capacity crowd at the American Family Insurance Amphitheater.
Massive walls of video screens beamed from all angles of the stage as Aldean shouted “Milwaukee! How y’all feeling, Summerfest?” before pointing to the sky and thrashing down on his black acoustic guitar in front of his tight five-piece band on the opening “Take a Little Ride.”
In addition to crafting a visually enticing live show, Aldean has built a catalog of country-rock hits ready-made for a career-spanning, 90-minute set list of nearly two dozen songs. The crowd swayed to the regret of “Drowns the Whiskey,” pumped their fists to the thundering beat of “Crazy Town” and loudly sang along with everything.
Often looped into the bro-country category, and guilty of tapping into it with R&B-touched tracks like “Burnin' It Down” and the partially rapped “Gettin' Warmed Up” and “The Only Way I Know,” Aldean was already infusing rock ’n’ roll into traditional country sounds long before Florida Georgia Line started blending genres.
And that’s where his sweet spot resonated in concert, with the steel-guitar leaning rumble of “Amarillo Sky” and the dusty longing of “Any Ol’ Barstool.”
While Aldean was often a stoic presence earlier in his career, he was now warm, energetic and animated as he bounced between three microphone stands in his low-slung cowboy hat and called to the revelers in the back of the venue. He even played with the traditional concert format when he explained that he finds the exercise of encores a waste of fans’ time and instead opted to “just keep playing until we’re done.”
Kicking his boots in the air during the pounding refrain of “My Kinda Party,” he kept his word as the hits rolled on.
Kane Brown and Carly Pearce
In 2016, Kane Brown made his Milwaukee debut at a sold-out show at The Rave, months removed from being a social media sensation-turned-major label artist. Then, the crowd seemed more prepared for his stardom than he was.
Three years later, Brown emerged on the amphitheater stage a fully formed star, swaggering confidently in front of a capacity crowd that arrived early for his set and singing with a voice that bounced from a poppy upbeat groove on “Weekend” to a deep, rich Southern twang on “Homesick.”
“I need you to sing this at the top of your lungs,” Kane said as his band introduced this year’s No. 1 hit, “Good As You,” “Do you know this one?” he asked.
They did, and they sang it all the way to the top of the hill.
Unfortunately, most of Carly Pearce’s 25-minute opening set featured an overly bass-heavy sound mix, burying much of the Kentucky native’s vocals. But, when the four-piece band’s backed down on the subdued chart-topping “Every Little Thing,” Pearce’s smooth voice received the showcase it deserved.