Luke Rocks the Sold-Out Salem Civic Center

Concert review: Fans swoon for Jason Aldean
The country music sensation played to a sold-out crowd of nearly 6,000 at the Salem Civic Center on Thursday.
By Tad Dickens

Jason Aldean performs at the sold-out Salem Civic Center on Thursday evening in his third visit to the Roanoke Valley.

People around the Roanoke Valley knew about Jason Aldean long before he was a 40-foot-tall silhouette with a cowboy hat and acoustic guitar.

He played Roanoke's annual Festival in the Park a few years back, and hit the Salem Civic Center in 2008. So when the curtain dropped, and the silhouette came to life, a sold-out crowd of 5,959 went nuts for his return to Salem.

He gave them what they've loved since he first started dropping hits six years back -- hard-driving, country influenced as much by the Allman Brothers Band as it is by the likes of Keith Urban.

He gave them some favorites -- "Crazy Town," "Amarillo Sky," "The Truth." Then he went for some of his own favorites, including songs by his "CMT Crossroads" show partner, Bryan Adams.

It could've gone all wrong from there, but on-the-money versions of Adams hits "Heaven" and "Cuts Like a Knife" went over big with the crowd.

He was leading his band through more favorites as an early deadline approached.
Warm-up act Luke Bryan is at the same career place that Aldean was a few years back. He seems to have the weapons to climb up another notch or two.

In his 45-minute set, the south Georgia singer/songwriter hit on all the buzzwords that make the average country music fan go nuts -- corn whiskey, pickup trucks, rifles -- but not "a rebel flag you bought at the mall."

Before launching into "Do I," Bryan thanked the fans for their part in making it his first No. 1 hit. The song about a fading romance came off like mid-'80s Journey.

He sounded nothing like former Journey frontman Steve Perry, but he sounded a lot like Metallica frontman James Hetfield when he broke into a verse and chorus of "Enter Sandman" during his own "All My Friends Say."

First-on-the-bill Ash Bowers was nowhere near as energetic or charming as Bryan, but he was at least twice as earnest, with one song about his absentee father, in which he proclaimed that his single mom was "A Better Man Than You."

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