If onstage guests at Brad Paisley’s Crushin’ It World Tour look like they are having a particularly good time, it could be thanks to the working bar that’s part of the set. Paisley kicked off the tour May 15th, playing to more than 50,000 fans the first weekend, including sold out shows in Philadelphia and Raleigh.
“It has a countertop and taps at the end of it,” Paisley says of the tour bar. “It’s set up for 20 to 30 people. . . It’s fully functional. During the first song, there’s no one there, but by the second song, we launch into ‘Water’ and there it is.”
Guests at the bar include contest winners from radio stations, friends and other special visitors — all of whom are warned there’s a four-foot riser surrounding the bar, so they’ll still need to be steady on their feet. Paisley performs four songs while the guests are imbibing, with their silhouettes projected on a big video screen behind them. As the bar guests leave the stage, they become part a scripted segue between two tunes.
“At the end of ‘Beat This Summer,’ you’re looking at a beach scene [on the video screen], and it went from a nightclub to a tiki bar,” Paisley explains. “All of a sudden, you see the clouds go rolling in and hear the thunder. The sea starts to churn and they run from the bar like it’s going to get blown away. And then we start ‘Perfect Storm.'”
Justin Moore and Mickey Guyton are openers on the Crushin’ It tour, with Guyton joining Paisley to sing Alison Krauss’ part on “Whiskey Lullaby.” (“Mickey sings ‘Whiskey Lullaby’ as well anyone since Alison,” Paisley says.) At the beginning of the haunting song, the rising star sits at the bar, which is lit like a dark New York nightclub, and then slowly makes her way center stage to join her tour boss on Krauss’ part. Initially, the guitar slinger planned to follow the duet with the instrumental “Time Warp,” accompanying the song with what the superstar admits is “the most redneck thing ever”: hooking a Nintendo Wii up to the huge video screens and having a kid from the audience play Mario Cart. After a run-through, Paisley realized that wasn’t the best idea.
“We ended [‘Whiskey Lullaby’] singing, ‘La la la la la la la,’ and then Mario Cart music starts. It’s that awful game show music playing as Mickey leaves the stage. It was something out of Ricky Gervais — like The Office or Veep — the awkward moment. We’ll never make that mistake again. That doesn’t follow ‘Whiskey Lullaby.'”
After making sure Guyton won’t be exiting from their somber duet to the sounds of carnival music, things have fallen into place with the tour. And Mario Cart is still very much a part of the show – just in a different spot. In fact, Paisley hints that Jeff Gordon may show up on stage at a show or two for “Time Warp” and give some lucky young fan the thrill of his life when he gets to play a video game with a Nascar legend.
Paisley makes a hometown pit stop June 17th to open for the Rolling Stones at Nashville’s LP Field. “Playing with them is going to be mind blowing in every way,” he says, “but it’s also a matter of thinking about, ‘OK, what do I do in my set and how do I win over the hipsters from East Nashville before it’s over?’ The ones that are throwing a fit [saying], ‘What? We gotta sit through that hick?'”
Paisley’s Crushin’ It World Tour resumes this weekend in Salem, Virginia, and Charlotte, North Carolina.