Review: Jason Aldean mixes amped up bro-country with down-home allure

Not since blackjack has a Jack and an Ace ignited as much excitement as they did Friday night during the opening of Jason Aldean’s performance at PNC Music Pavilion.

The crowd erupted in cheers as the cards – along with a virtual cowboy hat and guitar – were incinerated with the strike of a match on screen. Then came the real pyrotechnics, lighting up a huge A on stage as the opening hook of Aldean’s “Hicktown” began to play.

Mr. Bro-Country rose from the floor around 9:10 p.m., strutting toward the front of the stage in ripped jeans, a plaid shirt and of course, a cowboy hat. Seamlessly, he segued into his mega-hit, “My Kinda Party,” before addressing the crowd with, “My name’s Jason Aldean, and it’s my turn to have a little fun with y’all if that’s all right.”

Jacked and Amped. Forget his initials, concert promoters for Aldean should tell people that’s what the Jack and the Ace represent. Because that’s exactly what you can expect from Aldean’s “Burn It Down” tour.

Aldean kept the energy up throughout his hourlong set as he sang hits such as “Amarillo Sky,” “1994,” “Night Train” and “She’s Country” while elaborate videos played behind him. He even found time to plug his new album, “Old Boots, New Dirt,” which hits stores Oct. 7.

Friday’s concert was a celebration of all things country: cowboy hats, mud trucks, leather boots, honky-tonks and even a digital appearance by the man in black, Johnny Cash.

Cash wasn’t the only superstar to make an appearance during Aldean’s performance.

“Ladies and gentleman, Ms. Kelly Clarkson,” Aldean said as “Don’t You Wanna Stay” began to play.

I’ll admit it: I strained my neck trying to see the former “American Idol” winner. But alas, Clarkson’s appearance was digital and prerecorded. Huge screens made it seem like Clarkson was singing in real time with Aldean during their award-winning duet.

Florida Georgia Line, one of the opening acts for Aldean, also joined him on stage later in to help him with “The Only Way I Know,” a track that originally featured Luke Bryan and Eric Church.

Country purists would argue that Aldean’s big sound, elaborate video displays, and hip-hop beats in songs such as “Dirt Road Anthem” are a perversion of old-school country. But I don’t think any of them were in attendance Friday night. The crowd roared at Aldean’s every move.

Even when the band’s electric sound went out near the end of the night during “Crazy Town,” the crowd’s electric energy carried them over, screaming and cheering, singing and dancing for every second of Aldean’s show.

I’ve never seen a crowd with such a “laissez les bons temps rouler” spirit as the people at Friday’s concert.

Certainly Florida Georgia Line got the crowd more than sufficiently warmed up earlier in the night with such feel-good anthems as “Cruise” and “This is How We Roll,” the lead singers’ gyrations oozing as much swagger as their songs.

And who doesn’t love a song all about dirt, as was the case with the band’s crowd-pleaser, “Dirt”? No, seriously, what other genre of music can get away with an entire love song that’s based on the many uses of dirt?

Sure, it might be tempting to roll one’s eyes at all of the country music stereotypes that came to life Friday.

But there’s no denying the energy and connection between Aldean and the crowd, with Aldean even stopping to sign autographs during “Don’t You Wanna Stay.”

Aldean’s show was certainly full of rocked-up, pop-country glam, but it was that kind of camaraderie between him and the crowd that gave Friday’s performance all the warmth of one big (really big) family reunion.