SEPTEMBER 29 – ROD LAVER ARENA
“We were one drag off a cigarette/ nah, we didn't smoke, but we wanted to be cool/ we were small-town kids, all vintage/ just a couple hallway famous fools/ we were way overconfident/ we were in love and loving it/ we were radio junkies, throwback country suckers for the old school.” - These Days - Jordan Sapp-MacKenzie Porter-Parker Welling Nohe.
There were far more Brad Paisley hats and tee shirts in the arena than Geelong scarfs as Canada born singing actor MacKenzie Porter hit the stage with her hot three-piece band.
The blonde bombshell, raised on a bison and cattle ranch at Medicine Hat in Alberta, used music as her nocturnal medication.
She ignited the enthusiastic audience with songs from her debut album and recent EP Drinkin' Songs.
The singer, now 32, opened with her 2019 hit These Days as she strutted down the boardwalk to reach her fans.
Porter's energised band pumped up the tempo as they showcased originals Cry Baby , Say My Name, Pick Up and Son Of A Bitch and covers medley including Strawberry Wine, Complicated, No Scrubs and If It Makes You Happy.
Her band included fellow singer-songwriter-actor Jake Etheridge, now 34 and a star in movies and the TV show Nashville, whom she wed in July, 2020.
Jake also appeared in her video for her inspirational set finale - Dustin Lynch penned hit Thinking About You.
“This was a duet with Dustin Lynch who is not here tonight,” Porter explained as she thanked headliner Brad Paisley for including her on the tour and show.
It was fitting she saved her vibrant violin playing for her cameos in Paisley's marathon set.
MORGAN EVANS JOY AND SORROW
“How long have you been waiting to take our pictures down / How long have you been breaking, why am I just finding out / I would have searched the world all over for you / took a flight through the night to be that shoulder for you / I would have let go if you wanted me to / how many times did you say ‘I love you' when it wasn't true,” - How Long - Morgan Evans.
Expat Novocastrian Morgan Evans picked up the tempo from opening artist Porter as he hit the stage running.
Evans opened with up-tempo tunes Young Again and Kiss Somebody and teased the audience with a snatch singalong of Waltzing Matilda.
It was that kind of show as he and his quartet revved up Sing Along Drink Along and Song For The Summer.
But in midst of the joyous tunes Evans, now 37, reached deep into his soul for his poignant paean to death and a ruptured romance.
He punctuated his set with his piano primed Things That We Drink To - a tribute to his late manager Rob Potts who took him to America on several occasions to break into the international market.
“He took me back there when I was hesitant about returning again,” Evans explained as he eulogised the Tasmanian born promoter who died at 65 on October 27, 2017, in a motorcycle accident at Tullah on the apple island's west coast.
Morgan also showcased poignant new ballad How Long inspired by his recent shock split with singing spouse Kelsea Ballerini, now 29, whom he wed in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico in 2017.
The singer boomeranged from his morose melancholia with uplifting tunes Love Is Real and Day Drunk before thanking his audience for welcoming him back to Melbourne and Australia.
BRAD PAISLEY MELBOURNE THURSDAY NIGHT
“You're not supposed to say the word cancer in a song/ and telling folks Jesus is the answer can rub 'em wrong/ it ain't hip to sing about tractors, trucks/ little towns and mama/ yeah that might be true/ but this is country music and we do.” - This Is Country Music - Brad Paisley-Charles Du Bois
West Virginian born singer-songwriter and hot-shot guitarist Brad Paisley hit the stage running as he led his band through an energised 20 song marathon from his 13-album catalogue.
The triple Grammy winner and his sizzling sextet lit up the arena from his American Saturday Night entrée and Beat This Summer.
“The American summer is just ending but here it's just starting,” was the 49-year-old father of two sons weather report as he illustrated many of his songs with dazzling videos on the backstage screens.
Paisley swapped Telecasters between nearly every tune as he ignited Perfect Storm and The Love Boat/Water with Daytona Beach references and a vivid video backdrop of the vintage TV show.
The singer slowed the tempo for Waiting On A Woman, with original duet partner Andy Griffith in the video cameo and Then before revving his satirical splendour on Celebrity with its humour laden video of hapless Hollywood hombres.
Morgan Evans returned to stage for a duet on I'm Still A Guy and audience interaction with a female fan whose Instagram page was flooded with the duo's phone interruptus frolics on the apt tune Online.
Paisley's fiddler Justin Williamson shared the spotlight as they strutted the boardwalk with crowd pleasing Crushing It and Letter To Me.
The video interaction was pronounced in Alabama , featuring members of the legendary band, and River Bank with surfing skiing squirrels.
Evans joined Paisley for She's Everything with his live Kiss Cam featuring elder fans in the mosh pit acting out the title with surrealistic smooching.
Another enthusiastic audience member repeated his wedding version of the song live to his wife, fans and Brad's band.
They were not the only fans to be recipients of plectrums from Paisley who autographed a guitar and gifted it to a young girl who was advised to write a song with her present as he performed This Is Country Music with a video featuring Grand Ole Opry members .
Brad also acknowledged his guest country in a drinking tribute with a shoey.
“I don't know what you Aussies do that for,” he quipped to loud applause.
It was that sort of show with Paisley adding covers of Van Halen hit Hot For Teacher after his original Ticks.
Opening act MacKenzie Porter added her violin and vocals when she returned onstage and sang the harmony role of Alison Krauss in the Jon Randall penned ballad Whiskey Lullaby.
I'm Gonna Miss Her and Mud On The Tyres were perfect segues to encore Alcohol with Morgan Evans guesting and Don Henley penned finale The Boys Of Summer.
Brad, husband of actress Kimberly Williams-Paisley, peaked when he threw his white cowboy hat into the audience and thanked fans for joining him on his triumphant show.
It seemed a perfect climax for a rocking country epic that featured pedal steel and from Randle Currie and Kendall Darcy alternating on keyboards, mandolin and banjo, bassist Kenny Lewis, veteran drummer Ben Cesar and rhythm guitarist Gary Hooker.
Paisley approximate song list
1 - American Saturday Night
2 - Beat This Summer
3 - Online
4 - Perfect Storm
5 - The Love Boat / Water
6 - Waiting on a Woman
7 - Then
8 – Celebrity
9 - I'm Still A Guy (with Morgan Evans)
10 - This Is Country Music
11- Crushing It
12 - You'll Always Be My First (Cousin)
13 - Letter to Me
14 -Last Time for Everything / Purple Rain
15 - Hot for Teacher
16 - Old Alabama
17 - River Bank
18 - She's Everything
19 - Whiskey Lullaby
20 - I'm Gonna Miss Her
21 - Ticks
22 - Mud on the Tyres
1 - Alcohol
2 - The Boys of Summer (Don Henley cover)
Review by David Dawson
MacKenzie Porter photo - Carol Taylor.