It’s official. This was my favorite tour of the year. So, thank you to everyone who made the Riser tour come together and rock this summer. The energy was absolutely unreal, the talent was unmatched, and I finally had a fairly close seat at Klipsch. There’s not much more I could have asked for.
Jon Pardi kicked things off early. Honestly, I’d never paid much attention to this guy until the last couple weeks leading up to the show. I only knew the radio songs. “What I Can’t Put Down” is my favorite, but “Up All Night” was definitely the crowd favorite. The highlight of my experience with Jon came a few minutes before he took the stage when he was off to the side of the stage on my side. We made awkward eye contact, he smiled at me, and then he went on about his evening. He also had the most badass guy on guitar. I have no choice but to mark him down as awesome.
Next was Chase Rice. I’ve seen him play before, and I love how rowdy he gets on stage. He played several newer songs from his new album, Ignite the Night, as well as party anthem “I Like Drinking ‘Cause It’s Fun” and the radio smash “Ready Set Roll.” It was still early in the evening, but people were on their feet from the pit to the lawn to raise their cups and sing along. Dierks was also off to the side of the stage, and spotting him felt like hitting the lottery. I just think it’s incredible that, more times than not, he comes out to watch his openers perform. Anyway, back to business. You have to be accepting of the newer era of country music to really appreciate his set, but he is first and foremost a songwriter, and he’s paved his own way to becoming a performer. Chase may be taken for a party boy, but he’s got more talent than he knows what to with, and engaging fans the way he does is what will keep people rolling in for his own tour later this fall.
Chris Young took spot number three. He’s one of those guys who, until they’re up there playing them, has far more hits than you realize. And you wouldn’t believe how much fun he has on stage with his band. That was one of the best parts of having such close seats. We may not have been right up against the stage, but it’s so neat to be close enough that you’re able to gauge the reactions that an artist has to his crowd. Chris’s biggest hits have been slower songs, ballads, love songs, but he refused to let the energy drop. He took “Who I Am With You” and “Tomorrow” and mixed them in seamlessly with “Aw Naw,” “Save Water, Drink Beer,” and “Neon.” His latest single, “Lonely Eyes” also got a wonderful reaction. So while I’ve never gone out and purchased a Chris Young album leading up to today, I won’t hesitate a bit to come back and see him as a headliner in the next couple of years.
Finally, Dierks Bentley.
I have to start by saying, Dierks is easily my favorite guy in his class of artists. His first album came out in 2003, and now here he is finally headlining shows. To put it lightly, his 11+ years of work has paid off a hundred times over. The stage layout was thought out and unique, the set list could have only been improved with length, and every band member and crew guy was completely hyped. It’s such a privilege to experience the last show of a tour.
It all started with “5-1-5-0” and the buzz never dropped from there. Through the instant favorites “What Was I Thinking,” “Free and Easy,” “Am I the Only One” to the heartfelt performances of “Every Mile A Memory,” “Home,” “Come A Little Closer,” and his sweet new single, “Say You Do.” Dierks and company also really made a point to cater to everyone, also including the bluegrass-y “Up On the Ridge” and ever-heartbreaking “‘Bourbon In Kentucky.” He even worked in covers of “Counting Stars” and “Living On A Prayer.” How could it get any better than that? I’ll tell you.
When it finally came time for “Drunk on a Plane,” the entire venue roared with anticipation. For many of us, that song marked this summer in the history books. Anyway, as I’ve mentioned, this was the last show on this leg of the tour, meaning all the guys who played earlier that night would be going their own ways beyond that night. That called for a prank. So, just as Dierks got some momentum in the first verse, he turned around to see Chase Rice and Jon Pardi dancing on stage dressed as flight attendants. Thick black mustaches completed the costumes. Dierks missed a few words between laughs, but carried on. He pulled two girls on stage to dance with the guys, and continued to rock the night. That was, until the rest of his guys, plus one blow up doll, swarmed him on stage. “Drunk on a Plane” quickly turned to “Drunk on a Stage,” and it was beautiful.
I could go on for ages about this man and his show, but I won’t. I’ll tell you that he had a contest with a guy in the audience to see who could best shotgun a beer. I’ll mention that took his band and played a few songs at the back of the pavilion so that the people on the lawn could have a sweeter experience. I’ll even say that he pulled a little girl onstage at the end, fought his guitarist for a guitar to give her, and then pulled her into the photos of them all post-show.
Having seen Dierks open for Brad Paisley in 2009 and followed his career religiously since, I had high expectations for the Riser Tour. Every one of them was met and exceeded. And while it may have been the last show of the summer tour, I’m completely confident that the fall leg will be every bit as incredible. If you have any chance to go, do it. And any show that Jon, Chase, or Chris puts on is absolutely worth seeing as well. These guys perfectly capped off my summer, and there’s no other way I would have rather had it end.