It was the best deal in town on Tuesday night.
When country star Dierks Bentley bounded onto the stage at the Tabernacle just after 10 p.m., not a single person in the fist-pumping crowd had paid a cent to see the show. That’s because it was one of several around the country being sponsored by Samsung and AT&T in their Summer Krush series (each city gets a different artist).
These days, Bentley has no trouble filling a set with crowd-pleasing hits. In the six years since his debut with “What Was I Thinkin’,” he’s scored seven No. 1 country hits. He got Tuesday’s show of to a blazing start with the latest of those, this year’s hard-partying anthem “Sideways” and the hits, as they say, kept on coming: “Every Mile a Memory,” “Lot of Leavin’ Left to Do,” “Settle for a Slowdown,” and on and on. Bentley seemed to feed off the considerable energy of the crowd, loving every moment in the spotlight and interacting with the fans in the front row. Many of those folks with the prime spots at the front had been standing there since the doors opened just after 8 p.m.
Before launching into “How Am I Doin’,” he offered up a toast to the fans, his band and girls, specifically, ex-girlfriends. It was a tribute to all the things he “couldn’t do this without.”
You couldn’t sling a glowing green necklace – plenty of those about – without hitting a little white tank top, something that’s become the female attire of choice at a Bentley show. That piece of clothing shows up in both Bentley’s first hit (”What Was I Thinkin’”) and in the latest (”Sideways”). And in the sweltering heat of a hot Atlanta night, packed into the Tabernacle with about 2000 fans, it was a practical choice, too.
Before the show, I sat down backstage with Bentley for a few minutes to talk about girls in white tank tops, his longtime canine companion and playing venues not often frequented by country musicians.
Bentley’s dog Jake is a fan favorite who has appeared on album covers and in videos (and on his own MySpace page). Bentley posted a picture on Jake on his Twitter feed Tuesday afternoon, when the singer and his best friend were doing a photo shoot here in Atlanta for Country Weekly magazine:
“Yeah, he’s here. He used to come with us all the time, 24/7, non-stop. But now I have a house and a wife and family. He stays home. I’ve got two dogs, too, so I hate taking one and not the other. I felt so bad this morning, it’s like “See ya, George.”
“So Jake’s representing. Plus Jake’s been with me for so long, he doesn’t need a leash. He can just go anywhere. George is a street dog — that’s where I got him — he has to be on a leash. It’s like looking after a two year old.”
“George is like the Johnny Depp of the family. He doesn’t want the spotlight. He’s happy just doing his thing, creating his art, doing his dumps in the backyard and letting that speak for itself.”
On the little white tank tops favored by female fans at a Dierks Bentley show:
“I’ve written two songs about it now. The last song, “Sideways,” I was just writing a song on an airplane and that’s what came to mind. If I’d actually thought about it, I probably would have changed it so I wasn’t repeating myself. But it is a good look, so if I’m reinforcing it, that’s not such a bad thing. It’s a cool thing to see people not only singing your songs back to you but to actually dressed a certain way because of your music. I still remember the first show I played [after “What was I Thinkin’" was released]. It was in Augusta, Georgia, when two girls showed up wearing white tank tops with writing on them. I was like, “Wow, I hadn’t thought of that.” It’s a great way to show you’re a true fan. I appreciate it and I’m sure the guys in the crowd appreciate it.”
Bentley’s known for playing venues that don’t get many country shows, such as the Tabernacle and Variety Playhouse:
“We try to push ourselves as far as where we play on a map, but also the venues we play, doing Bonnaroo, doing Lollapalooza, and just going into places that are going to feel good to play. They might not be the places that the local radio stations supports or endorses. There are times when you’re just the background music to what’s going on. I want people facing forward, fully engaged in the show. I want their undivided attention. I need that. My ego wants your undivided attention for as long as we’re playing. And I’ll give you mine. It’s a two-way street. I like playing places where it forces you to be face-forward, beer in one hand, fist in the other.”
See photos from the show in our gallery.
Here’s video of his performance last night of his 2008 No. 1 song “Free and Easy (Down the Road I Go)”