Music News & Reviews

Brantley Gilbert delivers a 'Hell of an Amen' in Paso Robles

Country star Brantley Gilbert performed Sunday at the California Mid-State Fair in Paso Robles.
Country star Brantley Gilbert performed Sunday at the California Mid-State Fair in Paso Robles.

If you like your country music with a healthy helping of rock, Sunday’s Brantley Gilbert concert at the California Mid-State Fair was the place to be.

The undersold show didn't promise much on the surface.

Gilbert, although popular among a specific subset of country music fans, isn't as much of a household name as other big country names at the fair this year. And the same could be said for opening act Colt Ford.

Ford started the night dancing around stage in sweatpants and a black T-shirt, periodically grabbing onto his American flag-draped mic stand to grumble out some lyrics. 

I didn't know much about Ford before the concert, so I was surprised to learn later on that he and Gilbert co-wrote "Dirt Road Anthem," made popular by fellow fair performer Jason Aldean, in 2011. ( Later on, during Gilbert's set, Ford came up onstage to do the song's signature rapping portions, to the excitement of the crowd.)

Beyond a string of enjoyable yet forgettable songs off his album, Ford's best moment was when he briefly covered Eminem's "Lose Yourself," prompting cheers and synchronized arm waving from the predominately under-30 audience.

By the time Gilbert came onstage at 9 p.m., the drinks were flowing and the crowd was feeling a little more rowdy, standing on seats and swinging their light-up and plastic beer cups.

Gilbert growled his way through a couple of his newest songs.

But after the first few songs it was clear we weren't going to be hearing much of his actual voice for the rest of the night. Either his mic was turned down too low or the instruments were turned way up.

Surprisingly though, this problem didn't put a damper on the enthusiasm of the hyped-up crowd. Everyone cheered and clapped and sang along as if they could hear Gilbert perfectly.

That feeling continued through Gilbert's newest single, "Hell of an Amen," and into his first big hit, "Bottoms Up."

During the latter song, Gilbert pulled onstage a small boy holding a sign that read "I'm 5 and this is my first concert and I wanted to give you a high five." The boy not only got a high five, but got to rock out in front of the crowd as well.

Gilbert ended the night after a brief soliloquy about gun rights — both he and Ford are ardent National Rifle Association members and Second Amendment activists.

Then he sang a new song, "Read Me My Rights," and hollered a goodbye to the crowd: "Thank you, Cali! Y'all are country as hell and y'all know how to party!"