Music & Nightlife

Dierks Bentley ready to energize at PNC tonight

Andy Kropa/Invision/AP

When I picked up the phone this morning, half asleep, scrambling to grab my computer and recorder for an interview with Dierks Bentley, I was a little taken aback when I answered the phone and it was... Dierks Bentley.

“Hey, Paige, how are you doing?”

And for the next 15 minutes, it was like talking to a friend, someone I needed to catch up with after too long, not talking to a country music star whose last three singles have made it to No. 1 on the country singles chart.

Just talking about the show and his music raised Bentley’s spirits this morning: “It’s 10 o’clock in the morning, and I’m ready to walk on stage now.”

Bentley is coming to PNC Music Pavilion tonight at 7 p.m. with Maddie and Tae, Kip Moore and Canaan Smith. He’s headlining The Sounds of Summer tour this year, after releasing his No. 1 album “Riser” in February 2014.

Like I told him, I’ve been listening to his music since he got his start in 2003. He’s been doing this for more 10 years, but...

“Ten years ago? Gosh. I can’t believe it.”

But in 10 years has come a lot of freedom on stage and becoming comfortable with performing in front of hundreds, thousands, of fans.

“I’ve always had so much fun up there, but I just feel so free up there now... It feels like a NASCAR driver with their helmet on, in the car. I get an hour and a half, me and these awesome country fans can just go for a ride.”

Charlotte is where his last tour got started, so he’s glad to be back. “I can remember peeping around the corner to see if people showed up, and they had.”

“We try to make every show tailormade to the town we’re in. We’ve done some different stuff. We sang a Taylor Swift song in New York, “Welcome to New York.” When we were down in Miami, we sang a Jason Derulo song. We try to find ways to make it fit wherever we are...”

But in every city, Bentley’s hopes are the same: “I hope fans walk away still feeling like their batteries are charged. I want fans walking away high-fiving strangers.”

On his favorite song, Bentley knows nothing can beat the memories he sings about in “I Hold On.”

“I think about me and my dad taking a roadtrip from Phoenix to Nashville when I was 19. He’s no longer here with me, but I still drive that same 1994 Chevy truck. I never have bought a new car. I think about him, and that’s how that song started out. That’s a good song to sing every night.”

He picks opening acts who are hungry, so we can expect that from Canaan Smith, Kip Moore and Maddie and Tae.

“They’re not here just messing around. They come here because they love what they’re doing and they’re trying to make it happen. They’re not kidding around on stage. They’re all that way. You see it in their eyes, you feel it in their show. They’re serious about it. But off-stage, they’re just great people to be around.”

Bentley gives them a challenge: “Beat me. That just makes for a whole better show for the crowd if everyone is going up there and giving it their all.”