Dierks Bentley opened his 2021 “Beers On Me” tour on Thursday July 22 at CMAC in Canandaigua. Kicking off his first full fledged tour in nearly two years, it was clear from the first notes of “Gone ” that Bentley was excited to be back. He opened with his most current number one single and set the bar high for the rest of his performance.
Bentley commanded the stage, never staying in one spot for too long. He shook hands, bumped fists and signed autographs for kids in the front row. One lucky fan was invited on stage to shotgun a beer with Bentley. The whole night felt like a celebration. Everyone in attendance was celebrating the return of live music and the return to a sense of normalcy. The 5000 inside seats went unused. Once the music started, the sitting ended. Fans were dancing from the first note to the very last.
Bentley’s touring band was note for note, spot on perfect. A large staircase led to an elevated catwalk behind the drum riser. This is where Bentley had some of the best moments of the night. From atop the drum riser he belted out “Riser.” The lyrics are words that everyone in attendance could connect with after the last year and a half.
“I’m a riser. I’m a get up off the ground, don’t run and hider. Pushing comes a-shovin’, hey I’m a fighter. When darkness comes to town, I’m a lighter, a get out aliver, out of the fire, Survivor.”
The set was heavy on the hits, he’s had twenty number one singles already in his career. A new song, destined to be the 21st number one of his career is the tour’s namesake. “Beers On Me” is a super catchy, fun drinking song. The song, a duet with country newcomer Breland was recently released to country radio. Bentley invited Breland out to sing the song with him. True to the lyrics of the song, Beers were indeed on them. Breland and Bentley handed out about a dozen Bud Light cans to folks in the front few rows.
A short time later he made his way to the back of the amphitheater and did a short set from a small stage set up close to the lawn. It’s touches like this that make him a fan favorite. Bringing the front row to the lawn. The other opening act, Riley Green joined Bentley for this set.
Returning to the main stage, he picked up the pace. Running through “Sideways, What Was I Thinking and 5-15-0.” He had the crowd jumping and singing. The encore started with the elevated drum riser transforming into the cockpit of a 737, with Dierks Bentley dressed as a drunken pilot. The night ended with a huge sing along version of “Drunk on a Plane.” Or so we all thought.
The house lights came on briefly, before the house fell dark again. The giant LED screens came to life with the words “HOT COUNTRY KNIGHTS” in bright neon colors. Bentley brought his band back onto stage, dressed in early 90’s awesomeness. It was all mullets, fanny packs, Pit Vipers and keytars. The incognito “Knights” ran through abbreviated versions of dozens of 90’s country hits. It was a fun way to end the night.
Opening the show to a half full amphitheater was newcomer Breland. By his own admission it was only his fourth live performance. Ever. You wouldn’t have been able to tell. He is already a great performer. Backed by a bass player with some backing tracks, he performed a quick set showcasing his stellar voice and infectious stage presence. He wore a smile that you couldn’t possibly wipe off. He was truly enjoying his moment. It felt great to be a part of that. Next time you go to a concert, get there for the opening acts. You never know when they’ll be headlining.
Riley Green followed with a set of more traditional country. Green’s band has chops. From the dual lead guitar players his drummer, they propel his songs with a rock and roll energy. Taking his guitar to the end of the stage thrust, Green gave the audience a solo rendition of his biggest hit to date “I Wish Grandpas Never Died.” At one point in the second chorus I could swear that the crowd was drowning out the music coming from the stage. He closed his set with a brilliant cover of the Merle Haggard classic “Mama Tried.”
All in all it was a terrific way to return to live music. Three great acts on a beautiful 70 degree evening.