Review and Photos by Peter Coates – www.facebook.com/InsideEdgePhotography
BRAD PAISLEY / MORGAN EVANS / MACKENZIE PORTER
Qudos Bank Arena, Sydney – 05/10/22
Check out our Photo Gallery : Brad Paisley + Morgan Evans+ MacKenzie Porter at Qudos Bank Arena, Sydney – 05 Oct 2022
Canadian songstress MacKenzie Porter is a livewire performer who has had a few well-known hits, including Friends Don’t Let Friends Drink Alone with Dean Brody, and Thinking ‘Bout You with Dustin Lynch, and most recently One Too with Dallas Smith, and she treated the early Sydney crowd to a bunch of upbeat country numbers, backed by a solid band including her husband Jake Etheridge on lead guitars. She has a terrific range in her voice, and also plays a mean fiddle as she demonstrated later in a duet with Brad Paisley. Somewhat akin to Kelsea Ballerini, MacKenzie has a really contemporary country pop sound, but with some deep old-school country roots apparent in the voice.
Having seen Morgan Evans in a small pub last week to 150 people, it was a complete contrast to see the same band play much of the same set in an arena, with all the sound and lights involved, and also a pretty up front set of samples and backing tracks with percussion and backing vocals on several of the songs – which just added to the overall production values, without ever seeming to be overwhelming. Young Again, Country Outta My Girl and Kiss Somebody opened the set again, with Morgan barefoot and grinning throughout, and then a great intro to Songs For the Summer which has a really grandiose sound and sees the band really show their chops The keyboard came to center stage for what has become nightly tribute to Rob Potts, Morgan’s first manager, and then the heart-rending new song How Long, written about the recent break-up with Kelsea B, which had a couple of ladies next to me in floods of tears! The band kicks back in for Love Is Real, and the pop-country anthem Day Drunk which absolutely went off.
Despite the quality of the support acts, this show was very much about Brad Paisley, one of the legends of the US Country scene, at the end of his first visit to Australia. As he said mid-set – “Well you are a hell of a long way from anywhere”, but the surprising thing to me was just how varied the crowd was in age, yet everyone knew every word of every song….from 8 years old to 80!
The top-notch band occupied the back half of the stage, and showed just how professional and tight a bunch of musicians can be after backing Brad since 1999 – “they’re still on trial”, with solid drumming and excellent lap steel and fiddle playing throughout the night. Paisley is a pretty standout character, sort of like a Country-rock Springsteen, but with such skill on the guitar. He is a bit of a character too, and you can see where Keith Urban may have borrowed a few stagecraft ideas.
The set opened with the classic American Saturday Night, then Waiting on a Woman, Online and the epic Crushin’ It, before the slightly cheesy video wall behind the band playing Love Boat. We got a couple onstage for a marriage proposal (she looked stunned but still said yes!) and there was a second one in the Pit as well!
The band and Brad then treated us to an insane Hoe Down instrumental that was a high-speed romp through hillbilly guitar work, while Last time for Everything was on fire, and the band morphed seamlessly into a montage of Prince’s Purple Rain, including THAT guitar solo, and a cut-down version of Van Halen’s Hot for Teacher that was anything but country – the drumming was spot on and the guitars rocked! Old Alabama featured a ridiculous fiddle and guitar solo from the band and Brad, while Riverbank was delivered with a waterskiing squirrel on the video-screen raising a smile, and more face-melting solos from Brad. Brad then signed a guitar and passed it over to a young kid on his Dad’s shoulders holding a poster – and then got Morgan Evans onstage for I’M Still A Guy, which included a segment featuring a lady’s phone from the front row, and a review of her Instagram handle and eBay habits! She’s Everything was a crowd favourite with the roaming Kiss Cam scouring the crowd, and a searing Fender Strat solo for a change from the Telecasters Brad normally plays.
Then an acoustic segment out front showing Brad is more than a ripping lead guitarist with a delicate feel to the playing. Brad welcomed MacKenzie Porter onstage, and initially on the fiddle to the intro, and a heart-wrenching ballad with the two sharing the lead vocals and some wonderful harmonies to the Jon Randall cover of Whiskey Lullaby. The Shoey is perhaps the worst Australian “cultural event”, and Brad deflected the issue neatly with a clean cowboy boot onstage, clearly with a water bottle inside it, that made him at least look the part!
The band came back for the classic fishing tale of I’m Gonna Miss Her, with some great lap steel behind the Paisley lead, the we rolled right into Mud on the Tires, that shuffling country rocker with fiddle solo over the rolling bass line then off for the close, with Alcohol as the encore – what a classic night of quality country rock in ol’ Sydney town.