Masses of people flooded the streets of Wrigleyville. Ice-cold beer filled most Solo cups inside the stadium. The wind was blowing out steadily. It was a picture-perfect summer day for baseball at Wrigley Field. But what took place at the Friendly Confines last weekend did not bear the slightest resemblance to a Cubs game.
While the Cubs struggle to hit home runs, Brad Paisley and friends smacked a grand slam with the Virtual Reality Tour on Saturday. With Jerrod Niemann, The Band Perry, Chris Young, and Miranda Lambert rounding out the lineup, Paisley treated concertgoers to a countrified night of seemingly endless entertainment.
Leading off, Jerrod Niemann hopped on the massive stage housed in the outfield. His sing-along tracks pleased the crowd and kicked off the party perfectly. As he sang “One More Drinkin’ Song,” the fans held true to the lyrics, holding up their cups and singing along. After showcasing his strong vocals in a passionate rendition of “What Do You Want,” Niemann got the stands grooving to his new single “Shinin’ On Me.” In a tribute to the blues, he soulfully covered Stevie Ray Vaughan’s “Pride and Joy” before leaving the crowd in a frenzy with his infectious hit “Lover, Lover.”
The Band Perry continued the fun as the trio energetically bounced around the stage, making full use of the entire platform. Dancing was a common sight in the stands as Kimberly, Neil, and Reid played their debut single “Hip to My Heart.” During their performance of “Independence,” lead vocalist Kimberly intertwined a portion of Tom Petty’s “Free Falling” with some lyrical customizations: She’s a good girl, loves her mama. Loves Jesus and the Cubs too.
After channeling their inner rock stars, they reverted to their country roots with the unmistakable sounds of banjo, mandolin, and steel guitar in “All Your Life” followed by their current single “Postcard From Paris.” But the song that received the most significant reaction was “If I Die Young.” Kimberly uttered the first line only to pause and listen to the whole stadium completing the verse. She continued on with the resounding voices of nearly 40,000 before closing the set with the up-tempo “You Lie.”
The energy level in the atmosphere rose yet again as Chris Young burst onto the scene with boundless excitement. Belting out “Save Water, Drink Beer,” he jumped, sprinted, and fist-pumped over every possible inch of space. Enthusiasm was not the only admirable quality he displayed, however. The ladies surely appreciated his smooth-as-silk deep voice in the popular “Getting’ You Home” and “The Man I Want to Be.” Young picked up the pace with fan-favorite “Voices” and crooned his most recent singles “You” and “Neon.” He ended with emotionally driven “Tomorrow,” driving many to their feet.
The next act is no stranger to standing ovations herself. Miranda Lambert took Wrigley by storm with her hot-pink electric guitar, sparkly miniskirt, and fiery attitude. Opening with “Fastest Girl In Town,” she invigorated the crowd instantly. There was no slowing her down as she ran through a long line of hits including “Kerosene,” “Heart Like Mine,” “Baggage Claim,” and “Only Prettier.” There was no shortage of sassy or crazy with her on stage.
But the most poignant moments came during her slower and more sentimental songs. “Over You,” the track she penned with husband Blake Shelton about his brother’s death, left hearts wrenching and eyes watery. “The House That Built Me” equally tugged at many heartstrings as pictures of Miranda’s childhood flashed on screen behind her.
She commented on the diversity of the crowd saying that we’re brought together by our love for country music. She led into “All Kinds of Kind” by thanking the fans for accepting her for exactly who she is because she loves “going to baseball games, eating hot dogs, and drinking ice cold beer.”
Before finishing up, she had a special treat for fans—the Pistol Annies. The trio composed of Ashley Monroe, Angaleena Presley, and Lambert put on a four-song set, highlighted by “Hell On Heels” and “Takin’ Pills.”
Lambert reclaimed the stage for two more tracks wearing a custom pink Cubs jersey. The theme of powerful women found in much of her music was clear as she rocked “Gunpowder & Lead.” Her final song, “White Liar,” left fans buzzing with exhilaration and anticipation of the next performer.
Not many musicians can be identified within the first two seconds of their songs, but when that signature electric guitar echoed through the rafters of Wrigley and shook the historic field, everyone knew who was playing—Brad Paisley. In his white cowboy hat, faded blue jeans, and dark blue button-up shirt, the guitar virtuoso appeared on stage, ready to melt some faces with “Camouflage.” But the eye-popping graphics on towering video screens and vibrant light displays were anything but camouflaged in the ivy.
Staying true to the title of the tour, nearly every song was accompanied by visuals transporting concertgoers into a truly “virtual reality.” The technology helped create digital appearances by Andy Griffith in “Waitin’ On A Woman,” Alabama in “Old Alabama,” and Carrie Underwood in “Remind Me.” In fact, Carrie seemed so real that some men ran down from the back rows to get a closer view of her. Well done, Mr. Paisley.
A polished entertainer, Paisley knows when to turn off the technology and let the music do the work. While serenading thousands of couples with the ballad “Then,” he made his way from the outfield stage to the third base dugout for an intimate performance of “Letter to Me.” After telling of his failing algebra in high school and going to prom with his second cousin, he strummed an acoustic guitar and delivered a breathtaking vocal.
Besides his musical talents, Paisley possesses a sense of humor that takes center stage throughout the course of the show. From his comments on Charlie Sheen’s tiger blood and Kim Kardashian’s short-lived marriage before “Celebrity,” to his idea of the feminization of men leading into “I’m Still A Guy,” Paisley never fails to integrate comedy into his concerts.
Every single second contained some form of entertainment. Hit after hit filled the 21-song set-list in which Paisley changed his guitar more than 15 times. As if he wasn’t entertaining enough on his own, he brought out Kimberly Perry to duet with him on the hauntingly beautiful “Whiskey Lullaby.” And just when you thought he was done for the night when he “virtually” jumped into a lake after singing “Water,” he came back for more.
Paisley reappeared for an encore with the fitting “American Saturday Night” and the drinking anthem “Alcohol.” Donning a Cubs hat, he was joined by his opening acts for the grand finale. And grand it was.
After Brad Paisley’s stop at Wrigley Field, the “W” flag deserves to fly from the scoreboard in the outfield. The Virtual Reality Tour is a winner.
Kelly O’Brien is a Summer 2012 Marketing/Promotions Department Intern at US99.5 and a journalism major at Bradley University.