Photo By: Kevin Rolfe
So I don’t know if you guys have heard or not but Jason Aldean is really really big. Like, sold-out concerts all over the country big. Don’t get me wrong, I knew he was a big-time country star. I guess I just didn’t realize how big. I have a bit of a confession to make. Leading up to this concert I didn’t know any Jason Aldean songs. How is that possible? I like country music, and I’ve seen Jason Aldean on awards shows and on Saturday Night Live, but sometimes even the biggest stars slip through the cracks. Now, why would you want to read a review from someone who didn’t even know one song going into the concert at USANA Amphitheater last Saturday night? Well for one, if you weren’t there, I’m going to tell you all about it. And if you were there, you’ll want to continue reading to relive just how epic that evening was!
I waited at the gate at the entrance to USANA Amphitheater to be escorted to the soundboard where I would be shooting photos for the first couple of Aldean’s songs. From that spot, you can’t see the stage but you can hear everything perfectly. I could hear Kane Brown finishing up and I could tell as he finished performing just how awesome this crowd was going to be. Driving into the area I could see cars parked where I don’t think I had ever seen cars before. I could see people walking all over the place dressed in their best country garb. Whatever you think fits country garb, I saw it. Sleeveless plaid shirts, short denim shorts, overalls, boots, trucker hats, enormous belt buckles, and cowboy hats as far as the eye could see. But what else should I have expected, right? I loved it. I knew I was in for a great night.
As I walked through the crowd to get to the soundboard there was so much to see that I couldn’t capture it all. I saw people making out along the fence, I saw some drinking games near concessions, and my favorite was seeing a man being escorted out in handcuffs with his front two teeth missing. He was clearly inebriated. I couldn’t tell if he had his teeth punched out or if that was just his usual look. It seemed like whatever lead to him being taken away he enjoyed it. There was so much going on that a buzz was being created. It almost felt like I was at someone’s backyard party and twenty thousand people were invited. A DJ played music as the crew set up Jason and his band’s gear. Songs like “Friends in Low Places” by Garth Brooks, or “Livin’ on a Prayer” by Bon Jovi rang through the speakers as people sang along in full voice. When I got to the soundboard I spoke to an employee of Live Nation that handles many of the events at USANA Amphitheater. I stated that this had to be one of the most well-attended shows at the venue this summer. And she told me that it was, “By far.”. I mean I get it, I’m at a concert, there are going to be a lot of people. But there were people everywhere! It was pretty awesome.
The DJ closed shop and immediately Jason Aldean and his band took the stage. The crowd jumped to their feet and those who had been out by concessions raced to get back to their seats. Aldean told us that he planned to perform music from the present all the way back to 2005 when he released his first album. He then broke out into “Take a Little Ride” and we were off! Jason moved all over the stage with his trademark black towel tucked into his black pocket. There were three microphones set up so he would walk to one side of the stage with his guitar and start singing into that one, then he’d move to the middle of the stage and there would be a microphone ready for him there. And so it was on the other side of the stage. This way he could move around and play his guitar without having to wear a head mic or hold his microphone in his pocket.
Jason blazed through the first part of his set playing favorites like “Fly Over States” and “Summertime”. I looked back at the lawn and it looked like an ocean of heads and arms. There was just this great big sea of humanity raising their beers to the sky and they were singing every single word with huge smiles on their faces.
When I got back to my seat I saw the people in front of me taking pictures of their friend who had passed out from drinking too much. They were cracking up and shaking their heads at his ridiculousness. I was starting to feel bad for the guy that he was going to miss all the fun, but out of nowhere, the guy rallied. He rose to his feet and started rocking out. He lasted for the rest of the concert. It must have been the power of Aldean that rose this man from his blackout. It was one of the more impressive rallies I’ve ever seen.
The thing that kept crossing my mind was that Jason Aldean and his band were on stage at the Route 91 Festival in Las Vegas when that terrible mass shooting took place. I kept thinking to myself, “How is that guy up on that stage? How does he look so casual and confident after having the experience he had?” I was really impressed that Aldean didn’t let that horrible event define his career or keep him from continuing on. I’m a total wuss. I think that would have been my last night on a stage. But Jason Aldean pressed forward and the jam-packed USANA Amphitheater was overtly grateful for that decision.
Jason Aldean told the audience that he’s been in the studio. He said that he expects the album to be released later this year and that he’s excited for everyone to hear it. When he announced that he wanted to play an unreleased song from that album, there was a roar from the audience. That’s got to be a good feeling. He proceeded to play a song titled “Way Back”. I thought it was well-received. Looks like Aldean will have another hit album on his hands as soon as it’s released.
Jason Aldean seems to know his audience perfectly. People are there to have a good time. From what I could gather, the majority of the crowd were blue collar. I noticed sunkissed faces from construction workers. I saw a mechanic wearing the greased up hat from the garage he works at. I saw firefighters and people from the military. These people work hard. So when they come to a concert it was obvious that they were looking to let loose. Aldean gets that. He talked many times about making this whole evening a party. He spoke about going to parties and there’s always that one guy who does something stupid to make a good party into a kick-ass party. He stated that he’s usually that guy. The audience loved it. He then said took a shot of tequila and told the crowd it was time to take things into overdrive. He then played, “My Kind of Party”. Again, I felt like I was invited to someone’s barbeque and a concert broke out. People were having a great time. Throughout the night Aldean would sign hats that were thrown on stage. He even signed a boot. I was impressed because he never broke stride. He didn’t forget a lyric or miss a note.
As the night neared its close Aldean told the audience that he thinks encores are stupid and all they do is waste time. He stated that they were going to play everything they got then get out. I usually enjoy the encore thing, but I appreciated Aldean’s no nonsense stance. His setlist was 24 songs in length. I think skipping the encore allowed us to get in a couple of extra songs. So if that was the case I’m all for skipping that tradition.
The concert came to a close with “She’s Country”, “You Make it Easy” and “Only Way I Know”. After that, Jason Aldean chugged a Coors Light and walked off stage. People didn’t want to leave. The cynic in me first thought that they were just trying to avoid the terrible traffic that was ahead. USANA is a great venue, but something needs to be done about getting out of that parking lot! Really though, I truly think people just had such an amazing time that they wanted to soak it in as long as they could. The environment at that concert was one that you’d want to hold on to for as long as possible.
So yeah, I did not come into this concert prepared to see what I saw. Jason Aldean has had a long career of hit song after hit song. The reason I wanted to cover this concert was to see what all the fuss was about. Now I know. So the next time Jason yells out, “Where’s all my Utah rednecks?!” I can join in with my own, “Right here!”.