Blake Shelton's abundant talent can often be overshadowed by his irreverent tweets and the never-ending tabloid talk about his love life. Last night, he reminded us what a compelling entertainer he can be, headlining the 12th annual Stars for Second Harvest presented by O'Charley's benefit show at Nashville's Ryman Auditorium. The show, hosted by lauded songwriter Craig Wiseman and benefiting the Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee, also featured Shane McAnally, Josh Osborne, Kane Brown and Chris Lane.
For Shelton's set, there was no band, no backup singers nor video footage. Just the singer, his acoustic guitar and a stool, similar to any given writer's night in Nashville clubs. Despite the absence of the typical concert spectacles, he had the sellout crowd spellbound, the mark of a true entertainer.
Not that he was short on quips. After kicking off the short set with "Ol' Red," Shelton asked the crowd for a "Taylor Swift moment" of interaction, exhorting the folks to raise their cell phones in the air for his poignant "Home." "Just keep doing that throughout this song," he encouraged. "That's so cool."
Following that, Shelton began strumming the opening chords of his new single, "She's Got a Way With Words," already the subject of considerable buzz for its perceived lashing out about his split from Miranda Lambert. "Are all my songs this slow?" he suddenly interjected, drawing laughs from the audience. "I'm getting depressed playing my own shit."
Shelton also proclaimed himself "the world's worst guitar player" before abandoning the self-deprecating comedy, at least briefly. He turned serious in praise of host Craig Wiseman, the prolific songwriter who has penned several major hits for Shelton. "Some of my favorite songs were written by Craig Wiseman," Shelton noted. "The fact that he does this [benefit show] every year says a lot about him." Shelton went on to reprise his hits "Came Here to Forget" and "Boys 'Round Here," both co-written by Wiseman. The songwriter even provided the "Red, red, red" opener for "Boys 'Round Here," which had the audience singing along in unison.
Wiseman played the role of affable host and also contributed to the fascinating opening segment featuring award-winning tunesmiths Shane McAnally and Josh Osborne. The three shared the stories behind their biggest hits, including Kacey Musgraves' "Merry Go 'Round" and Sam Hunt's "Leave the Night On," which McAnally and Osborne co-wrote with the respective artists.
The big winner of the night was, naturally, Second Harvest. Over the years, Wiseman's star-laden benefit has raised more than $1 million in support of the community-minded food bank.