Dave Paulson, Nashville Tennessean
Published 10:09 a.m. ET July 12, 2020 | Updated 10:09 a.m. ET July 12, 2020
Country star Brad Paisley wanted to raise a glass to friends, family and frontline workers in the middle of a global pandemic with his new song “No I in Beer,” so he went on a virtual pub crawl. (April 20)
NASHVILLE – “This is how you do music in 2020, folks,” Brad Paisley said, as he gazed out far and wide on his masked audience at Nashville’s Nissan Stadium – the parking lot, that is.
The country star performed Saturday night during “Live From the Drive-In,” a three-night drive-in concert series that marked the first major concerts Music City has held in nearly four months.
“Drive-In” was also one of the first socially distanced concerts put on by industry giants Live Nation, and their safety precautions, as expected, were thorough. Fans parked their cars in a checkerboard pattern on the stadium lot, with their own “personal tailgating zones” marked off by barricades.
In Nashville, all attendees were required to wear masks when outside of their vehicle — per the city’s mask mandate – and were allowed to bring in their own food and drink.
Paisley and band performed on a stadium-grade stage on one end of the lot, with a full rig of lights and a massive video wall behind them.
Unlike other drive-in concerts – which required attendees to tune into their car radios to hear the show – speakers blasted the live sound clear across the lot, sounding as live and loud as CMA Music Fest does there in any other year.
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The weather was as good as you could ask of Tennessee in July, but conditions weren’t completely ideal. The trees placed throughout the lot — at any other time in history, a welcome source of shade for tailgaters — obscured the views of many. For most in the back rows, the jumbo video screens set up on both sides of the lot were the only window into what was happening on stage.
Luckily, Paisley is among country’s most affable and energizing performers at any distance, whether he’s ripping through a guitar solo or cracking wise between songs.
“We have had many a person tell me that they conceived their child after my concert, somewhere,” he said. “I don’t think it’s ever happened during (the show). We know what you’re doing on the back row, right now!”
If Paisley had binoculars, he would have seen that security teams were even patrolling those rows, making sure masks stayed on faces and that tailgaters were kept in line.
He and his band’s 90-minute set included a video duet with Carrie Underwood on “Remind Me.” The country diva belted along on the screens with a mock-FaceTime effect (even though odds are good she was at home just a few miles down the road).
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Paisley also went solo with an acoustic guitar to cover Joe Diffie’s “Ships That Don’t Come In.” Diffie died in March due to complications from COVID-19, and he and Paisley had performed the song together in recent years.
That segued into “When I Get Where I’m Going,” Paisley’s 2005 hit about arriving in Heaven. A memorial image of Charlie Daniels – who died Monday at 83 – flashed on the screens during the song.
There was also time for a twangy cover of Don Henley’s “Boys of Summer,” Alan Jackson’s “Chattahoochee,” even a bit of Prince’s “Purple Rain.” It was impressive, considering Paisley had to also fit it “Alcohol,” “American Saturday Night,” “Waitin’ On a Woman,” “River Bank” and “Mud On The Tires,” among the dozens of hits he’s enjoyed since 1999.
A song like 2007’s “I’m Still a Guy” must have felt fresh this weekend. When Paisley paused in the final chorus to have the crowd sing along, they were too spread out to be clearly heard.
“I don’t know, honk your horn or something!” he exclaimed. At the end of the song, a chorus of horns were heard across the lot.
“We never expected to be in this parking lot,” he later told them. ”Thank you so much for giving us this memory tonight, everybody. I hope we’ve given you a memory. We’re gonna get through this.”
Live Nation’s “Drive-In” is concurrently happening in Indianapolis and St. Louis this weekend, and Paisley is headlining a night in all three cities.
Nashville’s weekend kicked off Friday with country singer Jon Pardi and is set to conclude Sunday with a performance by Darius Rucker.
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