Country music is back. That’s what I thought watching the crowd sing along to a litany of Dierks Bentley’s biggest hits. The thought hit me again when my ears pulsated on the way home, happily deafened by the blaring music I just experienced.
Country music is back. I thought again, stumbling into bed way too late with my concert wristband still on. That night I dreamed of guitar riffs, crowds, and enough flannel to fill Nashville.
Dierks Bentley hit the Blind Horse Saloon in Greenville, South Carolina, on May 12. And taking a page from Hank Williams Jr., he brought his rowdy friends out.
Country music thrives in dive bars and local honky-tonks. So it felt appropriate the Blind Horse Saloon would be the location of its resurgence for me. Opened in 1995, the venue has seen a number of country artists grace its stage. We’re talking Blake Shelton, Jason Aldean, Vince Gill, and yes, Dierks Bentley. The establishment was a stop for Bentley on his High Times & Hangovers Tour.
The country singer is getting back to basics, returning to the bars of his early career. He even reunited with Cody Canada and The Departed, who opened for his first High Times & Hangovers Tour back in 2006. It was a walk down memory lane for the artist. But the concert wasn’t an intimate or quiet affair.
High Times & Hangovers
Dierks knows how to have a good time. You could tell he clearly missed the audiences as much as audiences missed him. Time spent in self-isolation in Colorado has made the heart grow fonder. Bentley kicked things off by summoning his inner Douglas “Doug” Douglason, the lead singer of his ’90s incognito band Hot Country Knights. Wearing a blond wig and glasses, Dierks, or should I say, Doug, gave a roaring rendition of Brooks & Dunn’s “Little Miss Honky Tonk.”
At one point during the show, Bentley pulled a fan on stage to shotgun a beer with him. The crowd roared in response. But the audience responded to almost anything Bentley did. They chanted along to “Drunk On A Plane” while they got tipsy in a bar. They cheered and danced, whooped, and hollered.
One couple even used the chaos of the concert to get engaged. Bentley held up the ring to the audience for all to see. It’s that high energy, anything goes vibes that people have been missing about live music. And they came from all over to see Bentley play. One couple said they came from Virginia. Another guy came all the way from Cincinnati.
Dierks Bentley Brings Down the House
Cody Canada and Dierks Bentley made for a lethally enjoyable combination. The two artists joined forces on the stage to perform several songs, including “Lot of Leavin’ Left to Do.”
Bentley also took the opportunity to demo something new with fans. He treated the audience to a live rendition of his new tune, “Beers on Me,” toward the end of the show. The artist recently announced he would be performing a Beers on Me Tour later this fall. In many ways, High Times & Hangovers is wetting Dierks’ whistle for a return to full concert venues.
By the time he played “5-1-5-0,” Dierks had whipped the crowd into a frenzy. The band blared, the crowd swayed, and Bentley was as good as he ever was. Country music was back.
There’s been much conversation about whether you can have a concert during a pandemic. Concerts, at least how they’re meant to be experienced, and self-isolation don’t go hand and hand. The concert felt like a return to normal for me. And for a couple of hours on a Tuesday night, the crowd got to experience live music for the first time in a year.
Country music is back.