“I’ve done some cool stuff in my career,” Dierks Bentley told the packed house at Phoenix’s US Airways Center Saturday night. “But this could be the greatest night of my career.”
The Arizona native shares those “greatest night” memories with Jason Aldean and Florida Georgia Line, who accompanied Bentley to his hometown for CBS Radio’s “The Night Before” concert, celebrating the next evening’s Super Bowl with country hit after high-energy hit. Some 15,000 fans packed the arena for the show, which started with FGL’s super-charged set of songs — and not just their own. The duo’s Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley — decked out in personalized Phoenix Suns T-shirts and basketball shoes — told fans one way to get to know them was to get to know their musical influences. So, in addition to their chart-topping “Cruise,” “This Is How We Roll” and other FGL favorites, they threw in covers ranging from new pop (Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass” and Bruno Mars’ “Treasure”) to vintage country (Garth Brooks’ “Friends in Low Places”), along with one beloved rap tune from their “sixth-grade year,” Dr. Dre and Eminem’s “Forgot About Dre.”
Saturday was also Hubbard’s 28th birthday — and he wasn’t shy about letting fans know, rapping the opening lines to 50 Cent’s “In Da Club” (“Go shorty, it’s your birthday…”) and nudging the audience to sing along. (Nobody bit.)
FGL’s hour-long set included a shout-out to the big guys they were ultimately opening for: the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks. The duo dedicated their toned-down “Dirt” to the gridiron stars of the NFL. “They work their asses off every week,” said Hubbard. “That’s some sacred ground here in Phoenix.”
US Airways Center was just that to Bentley, who said that, at age 17, he sat in the last row of the arena for a Garth Brooks concert. The ACM’s leading male nominee this year exploded on stage with “5-1-5-0” and traveled through his catalog, playing “Drunk on a Plane” and “What Was I Thinkin’,” among other popular sing-alongs.
The show was part of a week’s worth of events for Bentley. At his nearby Scottsdale bar, Dierks Bentley’s Whiskey Row, he hosted a slew of country artists in town for either the Super Bowl or the nearby Waste Management Phoenix Open. He and Gavin DeGraw also “opened” for the Super Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium the afternoon of the NFL championship game.
While Bentley and FGL were chatty, Aldean stuck to music and pyrotechnics for his set that clocked in at a little over an hour. He did relate that he was happy to be back on the stage after a three-month break. It was a seamless return to live shows for the Georgia native, whose firey set included “Hicktown,” “Big Green Tractor,” “Dirt Road Anthem,” “When She Says Baby” and “Night Train.”
The football-themed concert was a nonstop slew of hits and entertainment. In between the acts, the Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots cheerleaders danced on the main floor to music spun by Deejay Silver. Arizona Diamondbacks slugger Paul Goldschmidt and American Idol champ Scotty McCreery made guest appearances on stage, as well, topping off a night that saw a sea of fans, as Hubbard put it, “throwing it down for the Super Bowl.”