Friday night at the Show Me Center 3,769 fans got just that -- a high-octane country-rock-pop hybrid show delivered by two of country music's young stars, opener Miranda Lambert and headliner Dierks Bentley.
The concert fell almost 600 short of the 4,300 tickets needed for a sell-out, but from any seat in the house the arena seemed packed. Adding to the rocklike atmosphere of the show was a standing-room-only area at the foot of the stage, where fans crowded in to get as close to Lambert and Bentley as possible.
Lambert -- along with her Mohawk-wearing bassist -- provided a strong opening for Bentley, getting the crowd pumped up with her in-your-face attitude, loads of charisma and catalog of songs about jilted lovers taking revenge on their evil boyfriends. The opener had most of the crowd on its feet for the majority of her nearly hour-long set, singing along to her popular tunes like "What About Georgia?" and "New Strings" from her 2005 album "Kerosene."
Previews of songs from Lambert's new album like "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" also went over well, but most of the audience didn't seem to get on board with her cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Travelin' Band."
But the highs in Lambert's set were enough to get the crowd pumped up for the main attraction, Bentley, who came out to an arena on its feet singing along to the hit "Every Mile a Memory."
Bentley's reputation for amped-up live performance preceded him, and the young star didn't disappoint. Bentley and the band came out on the attack, bouncing all over the stage, shaking hands with crowd members desperate to touch him in the pit area and coaxing the crowd into sing-a-long after sing-a-long. Like Lambert, Bentley's tunes often owe as much to classic rock 'n' roll as traditional country, but the singer made sure to give homage to classic country by performing a section of the Hank Williams classic "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry."
No matter what Bentley sang -- be it up-tempo songs about rambling, gambling, drinking and pickup trucks or slow, contemplative ballads -- the Show Me Center crowd was engaged and on its feet. A few songs into his set -- after his performance of "How Am I Doin'" -- Bentley told the crowd "the party has officially begun."
Judging from the atmosphere at the Show Me Center, the party had already started, and it would continue until the music stopped.
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