Well, it’s one way to steam up the Bangor Auditorium on a cold November night. Pack it to the rafters with a small army of country music fans, give them three acts and three hours of solid performances and make them beg for more. All that for a bargain price of $29.75 a ticket.
CMT on Tour 2008 wrapped up its three-month run Saturday by playing to its biggest audience of more than 2,500 fans. Jason Aldean, a 31-year-old blue-collar icon, was the hard-working headliner, but for my money the hot trio Lady Antebellum was the evening’s real star. Although a touring band for only 18 months, Hillary Scott, Charles Kelley and Dave Haywood sing and move like seasoned pros.
“We’re so excited to be spending our last night together with y’all,” said Scott, who, like Aldean and opener Eric Durrance, were careful not to murder the name of their host city (right on, Hillary, it’s Bang-gore, not Bang-gerrr).
Lady A’s style has been described as classic country married to 1960s R&B soulfulness with a sharp, contemporary country edge. Lead singer Kelley, along with Scott, were in fine voice while trading lead vocals on the nine self-written songs in their set. The audience sang and danced along with all of them, including the hits “Lookin’ for a Good Time” and “Love Don’t Live Here.” Backed by a three-man band, and Haywood on keyboards, they used every inch of the stage while singing “Love’s Looking Good on You,” “Home Is Where the Heart Is” and “All We’d Ever Need.”
At 9:40 p.m. Aldean, clad in bluejeans, black T-shirt and tan cowboy hat, sprinted onstage. He turned up the heat by pounding out 17 songs in his high-energy set, which ended around 11 p.m.
Answering the question, “How do you follow Lady A?,” the fellow Georgian went into overdrive with the high-energy “Johnny Cash,” “Relentless,” “Hick Town” and Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down.” The occasional ballad included “Who’s Kissing You Tonight.”
“This song is from our new CD, due out in April, and it proves this ain’t your mommy and daddy’s country music,” he said. The driving “She’s Country,” backed by a powerhouse four-man band, proved it.
Playing to a sea of young die-hard fans, many of them clutching cell phones and wearing cowboy hats, Aldean sang three encore songs before calling it a night. A standout was John Anderson’s “Black Sheep.” Simple but effective lighting, reliable sound and a classy orange and black stage design complemented his performance.
“God bless you, Bangor, we’ll see you the next time,” Aldean said. True to his country roots, he meant every word of it.