Nashville may be regarded as the capital of country music, but Knoxville had its own taste of the music genre's elite.
Lee Brice, Miranda Lambert and Dierks Bentley visited Thompson-Boling Arena for the second concert of their "Locked and Reloaded" tour on Friday.
Brice, the opening act of the sold-out show and rising star in country music, opened with songs from his new album, "Hard 2 Love." He made a connection with his fans by addressing them casually and explaining the origin of some of his songs. This energized the crowd and kept attention on the stage until his last song.
Brice's performance was especially compelling with songs like "I Drive Your Truck," about the memory we hold in material things that remind us of loved ones past, and "A Woman Like You," about his wife and the alternative turnout of his life had he not met her. These songs, in particular, had emotion fueling them that made them much more relevant to the fans.
Brice successfully transitioned to a more playful, energetic feel after he had stirred such polar emotions. With songs like "Hard to Love," one of his popular hits in recent months, he easily shifted the mood from heartfelt to lively in a matter of seconds. Overall, Brice was a highly successful opening act that had emotionally compelling music while maintaining an energetic vibe throughout his set by connecting with fans and creating hype for the next act.
Because of the delay between Brice and Bentley, there was great anticipation for the seasoned country singer to make his appearance. Bentley created a slightly different dynamic with his performance, yet still maintained the energy from the previous act. One interesting thing Bentley chose to do throughout his show was praise his band. This began with an amazing drum solo from drummer Steve Misamore in "Lot of Leavin' Left to Do," a song about avoiding long-term relationships in order to pursue his career.
A major aspect of Bentley's performances was the visual effects paired with each song, especially "Up on the Ridge." This song's effects included a projection of a floating moon and dark woods that shifted as if the audience were actually in the forest. The woods caught fire during the chorus, lighting up the arena. Bentley was also able to provide versatility in his performances that made him highly entertaining with songs like "Settle for a Slowdown" that was performed as a bluegrass rendition, different from the original version of the song.
"Come a Little Closer" was another song in which he made a special connection with fans based on a slight change in delivery of the song. Bentley began the song as an acoustic version where only he sang and played the guitar. This was one of the most compelling performances of the night because of the intimacy it provoked between him and the fans and the emotion it stirred individually. Bentley also performed more upbeat crowd favorites that provoked a very positive crowd reaction, like "5-1-5-0" and "What Was I Thinkin'."
Lambert had the least emotionally driven performance of the night, but aroused a new level of energy the prior performances had not achieved. She was by far the most anticipated performance of the night, since both artists continually refered to her, and she was the last entertainer of the night. When Lambert finally made her debut, the crowd was highly enthusiastic in their cheers and participation in her songs.The effects in her performance were by far the best as well. With songs like "Kerosene" and "Over You," where projections of fire and reflections of lights made to look like snow filled the arena, Lambert's visual effects brought the songs to life in a way that influenced the emotions of the music on the crowd. She also maintained a sense of humbleness by doing a cover of Mountain's "Mississippi Queen."
Throughout her performances she interacted with the crowd. Lambert mentioned her private life, including her husband Blake Shelton, which made fans feel even more connected. Nearing the end of the concert, Bentley and Brice made a second appearance for a duet of AC/DC's "It's a Long Way to the Top" by Bentley and Lambert and later a trio of the three artists for "Bad Angel." Because "Locked and Reloaded" was the second timwe Bentley co-headlined with Lambert, the pair had a lot to prove in order to outdo their last tour. The visual effects and energy of all three performing artists proved successful in upping the ante. Overall, the vibe of the concert wasn't expected, but the classic rock meshed with contemporary country was a pleasant surprise. The visual effects and the artists' connection with the fans were notable in all three performances.Although there were a few hiccups, like Lambert's microphone going out at one point, the country performers accomplished what they came to do – perform. Brice, Bentley and Lambert well exceeded expectations with their staging and vocals which made this concert well worth the time and money spent by fans.