Blue and white lights shimmered across the ceiling of the Tacoma Dome as Jason Aldean wooed an audience of more than 20,000 country fans during his concert last Friday.
The concert was a stop on Aldean’s “2013 Night Train” tour, though it also featured opening performances by country artists Thomas Rhett and Jake Owen.
As an avid country fan, I had high expectations for the concert — Aldean is one of the biggest names in New Country. His newest album, “Night Train,” sold more than 409,000 copies in the first seven days of its release.
Eagerly awaiting a live performance of some of the album’s best, I navigated through the crowd to my seat in the middle section of the Tacoma Dome stands. Surrounding me were mostly people ages 15-25, who proudly sported cowboy hats, flannels, a menagerie of leather boots and a healthy serving of camouflage.
Scattered within the young crowd were a few families with excited children, one of who spastically waved a sign that read “I love Jason Aldean” written in green crayon and decorated with cowboy hat stickers.
When the stands had filled to near capacity, Rhett appeared and began to sing “It Goes Like This.” The song was popular enough to be easily recognized by most of the crowd, and they promptly quieted down to listen.
Unfortunately, Rhett’s following songs not only lacked familiarity, but they also sounded so similar to each other that he began to lose the crowd’s attention.
People grew antsy, and empty cups seemed to travel back up the stairs almost as quickly as their freshly filled counterparts traveled back down.
Finally, Rhett headed backstage and Owen took command of the crowd. He pushed back his shaggy, shoulder-length brown hair and sang his hit, “Days of Gold.” Behind him, a huge video panel displayed the music video for the song. Images of ski boats, trucks, girls in cut-off jean shorts and a Southern style beach party flickered across the screen.
Unlike Rhett, Owen managed to maintain crowd attention throughout his other songs. Some people danced, others sang along and some attempted to film the performance on blaringly bright phones and cameras.
After Owen’s performance ended, the concert crew changed out the entire set — instead of one stationary video panel, six panels that could move in formation stood above the stage.
Aldean’s long-awaited entrance was successfully theatrical. A huge orange video panel moved to stage level and displayed Aldean’s contrasting black silhouette. Behind the screen Aldean played the guitar to the beginning of “Crazy Town.” The panel lifted as the lyrics began, revealing Aldean.
The crowd roared in approval and rose up from the stands to clap, dance and join in on Aldean’s songs. Aldean cleverly balanced his fast-paced songs with slower ones. He broke up his long performance when he shared personal anecdotes and made fun of his band members, who all shared a long past of bad haircuts.
Each of Aldean’s songs had something to offer—but the most memorable was his rendition of “Night Train,” for which the tour and album are named. Aldean’s energy and vocals introduced the song’s vivid imagery of a night under the stars, but the speckled light of thousands of swaying cell phones and lighters brought it to life.
When the concert came to a close, I walked out of the Tacoma Dome with my ears ringing and feet aching. Yet had I had the choice, I would have turned back around and listened to the whole concert over again. The talent, music and energy brought to Tacoma by Jason Aldean’s “2013 Night Train” tour was unforgettable and certainly worth the $50 ticket.