The hooks are big, but the tour budget is bigger.
Now more than ever, musicians are hitting the road in order to make a decent living. With country continually showing up in top grossing tour lists every year, stars are stepping their game up to have the wildest concerts in town. Here are some of the kookiest shows in recent memory.
1. Taylor Swift’s fairytale comes to life
There’s a reason for her fans’ extraordinary devotion: T-Swizzle knows how to bring the spectacle. Like similar pop sensations Lady Gaga and Nicki Minaj, Swift’s setlists are strung together to create a pseudo-Broadway show each night. For instance, “I Knew You Were Trouble” features intensely choreographed Phantom Of The Opera extras and a grand staircase.
2. Eric Church’s giant inflatable devil
Ironically for a man with such a holy last name, Eric Church took to using a huge inflatable Satan named Lou C. Fer during 2014 shows as he played his song “Devil, Devil (Prelude: Prince of Darkness)”. The black, Medusa-like behemoth is over a hundred feet tall and genuinely creepy. So much so that some fans complained, saying it wasn’t appropriate given that children go to his shows. His heroes Metallica would be proud.
3. Brad Paisley’s slapdash H2O success
After the “1000-year flood” that brought Nashville to its knees in 2010, Brad Paisley’s H2O Tour was put on hold. Almost all of the equipment needed for the massive outing had been stored in a warehouse that flooded. Paisley’s crew waded through chest-deep water to save gear and volunteered their nights and weekends, putting the whole tour back on track in only three weeks.
The stage included a gargantuan screen and an actual pool that Paisley climbed out of to begin each show. Paisley also sang some tunes wearing a huge caricatured bobblehead of himself, perhaps inadvertently starting the trend everyone credits to Arcade Fire. When he opened the first show in Virginia Beach with “Water”, he was so emotional, he almost couldn’t sing the song.
4. Garth Brooks comes back, period
Garth Brooks may think the best gig he ever played was being a dad, but his sold-out comeback tour must be a close second. The country rock king took cues from Billy Joel and U2 by featuring a 360-degree stage design, centered around a drum kit in what can only be described as a minimalist rubber band ball. Every seat at a Garth Brooks show is the best seat in the house, but his ability to give equal attention to the entire audience only heightened this.
5. Jason Aldean burns it down
We wanna grab a drink with whoever does Jason Aldean’s graphics. His monstrous 2014 Burn It Down Tour featured some pretty literal megatron footage in which larger than live matches incinerate guitars and cowboy hats, but that’s nothing compared to the hundred-foot fiery A that Aldean emerges atop. For his opening number “Hicktown”, all kinds of sparks fly.
6. Miranda Lambert also burns it down
Speaking of pyrotechnics, Miranda Lambert got plenty of use out of real life kerosene at the 2005 CMAs. She’s toned down her live performances since then, but this raucous intro by the firebrand (sorry) made it clear that she would be a whole lot more than a girl and an acoustic guitar.
7. Toby Keith’s cup runneth over
The Solo Cup Company must have had a field day when Keith released this single back in 2011. When he plays it live, everyone – and we do mean everyone – is given a cup and holds them aloft, swaying in place. The stage is even flanked on either side by big inflatable cups. All the while Toby prowls the stage with a mic in one hand, and a Solo in the other.
8. Kenny Chesney communes with nature
On rare occasions, the craziest pageantry at a concert is unplanned. Such was the case at a Dallas Kenny Chesney show in 2009. When it rains in Texas, it REALLY rains. The concert had to be called less than an hour in, but Chesney and crew did their best, and even threw in this topical setlist change for the occasion.