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Stagecoach 2009: Brad Paisley's class in Geek History

April 26, 2009 | 10:00 am

PAISLEY_STAGE_2_500

Brad Paisley’s wrong — he’s not cooler online.

In fact, the coolest thing about the singer, songwriter and guitarist is that he’s become one of country music’s biggest stars by fully embracing his inner nerd.

It wasn’t even all that inner during his headlining set at Stagecoach on Saturday night, the final stop — a belated hiccup, almost — on his Paisley Party Tour that formally ended in March.

His estimable string of hit singles encompasses a good percentage that reflect youthful awkwardness and the way that plays out for so many people in adulthood:  “I’m Just a Guy,” “Online” and “Letter to Me.” He writes and delivers them with such unforced wit and Everyman honesty, it’s understandable that he’s connected with a broad swath of country fans.

As it was stated so eloquently in the 1984 cinematic classic “Revenge of the Nerds,” when the head nerd went nose-to-nose with the top jock: “There are a lot more of us than there are of you.”

But what is still a bit surprising, in a good way, is that Paisley’s crafted hit after hit without sinking to lowest-common-denominator level of so much of what’s on country radio today. His lyrics are fresh, rife with brilliant twists (“I’m Gonna Miss Her [The Fishing Song]”), the occasional bawdy double-entendre (“Ticks”) and even profundity (“Whiskey Lullaby”). On top of that, he's one of the most dazzling guitarists ever to come down the pike, a worthy heir to the tradition of Chet Atkins, Jimmy Bryant, Albert Lee and Vince Gill.

Equally impressive, the visual component of this grand-scale production, much of which Paisley designed and animated himself, was as clever and inspired as his music. Alison Krauss appeared to join him singing her duet part on “Whiskey Lullaby,” but the video was incorporated so seamlessly that many may have thought she was actually on stage with him.

“Celebrity” was accompanied by a big-screen demonstration of a whimsical session of “Guitar Zero” that featured video of Taylor Swift, Dierks Bentley and Bill Anderson unsuccessfully trying to keep pace with an unflappable Little Jimmy Dickens.

“I’m living proof that high school is not necessarily the best years of your life,” Paisley told the crowd after a performance of “Letter to Me,” in which high-school photos of each band member was paired with a present-day shot. “What I really needed then was to be able to look ahead and see this. We’re just a bunch of geeks that love to play music, and tonight is somewhat of a pinnacle.”

Hail to the geeks.

-- Randy Lewis

Photo credit: Spencer Weiner / Los Angeles Times

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