Monday, October 01, 2012

Jason Aldean dominates Go Fest in Irvine

My review was originally posted on the Orange County Register site on Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012. A special "thank you" to photographer Kelly A. Swift for the use of her great image of Jason Aldean taken at the show.

Jason Aldean dominates Go Fest

Jason Aldean in Irvine on Sept. 29, 2012.
Those hoping for an absorbing, mesmerizing concert experience at Go Fest 2012 were in the wrong place Saturday (Sept. 29, 2012). But if you were looking for decidedly over-the-top musical performances, a place to pound away beers, get in a bit of line dancing and check out all the other guys and gals, Verizon Wireless Amphitheater was definitely the place to be.

With a full slate of seven performers – and headliner Jason Aldean noting that this was actually just another stop on his ongoing tour behind 2010’s My Kinda Party – the fifth staging of Go Country 105’s Irvine event recalled Indio’s annual Stagecoach festival. All that was missing were the huge tents featuring alternative country and Americana artists.

The capacity crowd was mostly on its feet for both Aldean and Luke Bryan, further creating an energetic atmosphere for the last three hours of this seven-hour shebang.

Not surprisingly, Aldean was the strongest talent on the bill; the Macon native and his five-man group are among the most successful acts at fusing modern country with an arena-ready rock sound. While Aldean’s power ballads (notably “Big Green Tractor”) connect him to heroes like George Strait and Alabama, his upbeat songs, stripped of pedal steel and other traditional accoutrements, could fit well on a Bon Jovi album.

“Tattoos on This Town,” “Crazy Town,” “Fly Over States” and “Take a Little Ride” (the latter from his next album, Night Train) also boasted that oversized assault. But one of the finest moments in his 75-minute set was the title track from his coming disc (due Oct. 16), a mid-tempo and well-received song with an immediately infectious melody. He also closed the night out with a rousing version of “Hicktown.”

Fellow Georgia-born star Bryan delighted the crowd as well, although his seemingly contrived approach to performing (heavy on shout-outs like “what’s up, California?” and “where are all my beer drinkers?”) cemented the perception that his songs are secondary to the party environment he fosters. His best songs showcased catchy singalong choruses (“Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye,” “Country Man”), while his hour-long set ended with the crowd-pleasing “Country Girl (Shake It for Me),” bolstered by a “Billie Jean” disco beat.

Opening the action on the main stage, singer-guitarist Rachel Farley delivered roughly 20 minutes of lively new country but had trouble connecting to the crowd because of such unknown material. Dee Jay Silver, spinning a mix of country, rock and urban hits between acts on the big stage, pleased with propulsive mixes of Boston, AC/DC, Aerosmith, the Outfield and others.

Of the three acts that launched the bash on the side stage, singer-songwriter Matt Rogers impressed most. His half-hour, six-song set for those who arrived early showcased the Season 3 American Idol finalist’s rich baritone vocals and solid tunes. Highlights: his beautiful ballad “Coming Home” and the electrifying “Round Up.”

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