On the surface,
As a result, Bentley turned out to be the last artist to hold a full-length concert on those old boards (even though the Opry will be there this weekend.) And the historic moment clearly touched him, as Bentley got down on his knees at the end of the night and kissed the well-worn boards.
Bentley was a good choice for the stage's swan song, if only because he used practically every inch of it. Wearing a denim jacket, white T-shirt, blue jeans and cowboy boots, he looked pretty comfortable up there and had no problems crouching down to sing to the front row, leaning over to greet his fans who approached the side of the stage or trotting up to his band members for a quick jam.
Unlike most record release concerts, Bentley didn't simply reproduce the new album, which is due Tuesday (Feb. 7), then tack on a few hits at the end of the night. The set list proved to be a well-thought-out representation of everything he's built his career on -- drinking songs, party anthems, sensual ballads with a lot of romantic tension and an everyman perspective that is easy to identify with. And speaking of "everyman," it seemed like every man was singing along with every word, something I rarely see at country concerts these days.
The early numbers leaned heavily on uptempo material, starting with a new song, "Tip It on Back," and followed by
For the next segment, Bentley slowed things down a little. I glanced at the women around me and noticed quite a few with lusty eyes. Maybe it was the growl of
Bentley told the audience he'd been sleeping for the last few nights in a Nashville hotel ("with a backpack, a guitar and a bottle of wine," he noted) because his two daughters were sick at home, and his wife didn't want him to catch anything. That turned out to be a wise move because Bentley's vocals remained strong throughout the long set of 25 songs.
After chatting a bit with the crowd, he drew upon traditional country with "Heart of a Lonely Girl," contemporary country on
By then, he had invited the supporting players of
After a few more covers (one from Pink Floyd, the other from
Usually I don't like to give away the encore, but in this case, it's important to go on the record: The last song played was "I Saw the Light." And for Dierks Bentley fans, there truly was no sorrow in sight.