Review and photos by Peter Coates
“My favourite colour is John Deere Green” (1994 – Jason Aldean)
This was not country music as we normally understand it. Yes there were large numbers of guys in jeans, check shirts and cowboy hats, and hordes of girls in denim shorts and boots, but both these acts are modern country rock, with attitude and edge, and clearly have a massive fanbase in Australia.
Thousands of them descended on the Hordern Pavilion and the place was pretty much packed when Florida Georgia Line (FGL) appeared in front of a massive screen showing some fun and kitschy old photos of the main men – Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelly.
These two guys are just livewire dynamos on stage, fronting a big band with a huge sound, and pounding out a set that is mainly rock, with a southern drawl, and a bit of rap and pop thrown in to cover all the bases – with the main focus being on having a Partaay!
The FGL set is one of major US hits, all of the 3 minute instant party tracks, delivered with a great attitude. They rolled them out one after another – kicking off with Just What We do, and into Round Here and Party People, by which time all those still outside were in the venue.
There is so much going on onstage that is hard to follow the two guys – made even harder when they jump into the pit to sing to and with the front rows! They share the limelight through the set, like two Kid Rocks on caffeine!
After Anything Goes and Smile, the boys strap on guitars for Stay, and we are belted with a four-guitar intro which turns into a huge crowd singalong. The band is top quality, with drummer Sean Fuller a standout animal behind the kit, and Tyler Chiarelli on lead guitars throwing all the usual rock poses, and delivering some great riffs and solos.
The set slows down a bit for the classic cover of Rodney Clawson/Chris Tompkins ballad Dirt which has the crowd in the palm of their hands…only to go utterly bezerk when This is How We Roll steamrollers into the set, before the calypso feel to Sun Daze sees cowgirls on shoulders all over the Hordern. The crowd lights up their phones and the odd lighter for Shine On and then one of the biggest hits Cruise closes the set with an accapella duet, and a final “Sydney we love you guys”!
Jason Aldean may have been forgiven for sitting in his dressing room wondering if he brought the right support band, before he ranged onto the stage, a big man in a traditional Stetson, and delivers a set of high-octane modern country-rock.
The crowd was possibly a bit shell-shocked from the FGL set, so it took a couple of songs, Just Getting’ Started and Gonna Know We Were Here to re-start the energy, but the aggressive nature of the performance, and the energy of what could be any classic rock band with a country singer delivering a set of power and quality. The “Hello” apparently from Keith Urban brought the house down, and the crowd response stayed at the highest level for the rest of the set.
Aldean prowls the stage, and works really well with the rest of the band, and he picks up his guitar we ran through Take a Little Ride, The Truth and Night Train, before the Big Green Tractor featuring a great solo from Kurt Allison.
Some of the songs would certainly be easy to include on the set list of a number of modern and classic rock bands, like Tattoos on this Town, and there is a modern electro-beat theme underpinning tracks like Tonight Looks Good On You and 1994, which features some major power-chords and soloing, and Allison also excels in the riff-heavy Fly Over States.
One of the big songs for Aldean is The Only Way I Know, originally recorded with Luke Bryan and Eric Church, and he brings out FGL’s Hubbard and Kelley to complete the trio live – which sends the crowd further into a frenzy.
The set is more rock guitar based, heavier and varied than I expected, and the only real giveaway is the gravelly southern voice, and really cranks up when Aldean delivers his version of Brantley Gilbert’s My Kinda Party, with a superb dual guitar riff and solos throughout the song.
A touch of industrial rock is thrown in with She’s Country, and after another cover, Dirt Road Anthem, we get the immense Hicktown.
The only disappointment in the set was ironically a song written by FGL, Burnin’ It Down which never quite seemed to hit the mark, but the set-close Crazy Town returns us to the arena-rock world, with soaring keyboards, driving powerchords and a great riff! Phew!
Headliner: Jason Aldean – www.jasonaldean.com
Support: Florida Georgia Line – floridageorgialine.com
Venue: Hordern Pavilion, Sydney
Date: March 9, 2016
Review and photos by Peter Coates – www.facebook.com/InsideEdgePhotography
Promoter: Chugg Entertainment