Country music fans got a double-barrel blast of boundless energy and nonstop hits Friday night as Tishomingo resident Miranda Lambert and her longtime pal Dierks Bentley aimed their “Locked & Reloaded Tour” at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
With their dynamic set lists and easy charisma, the superstar co-headliners set their sights on thrilling the near-sellout audience, and judging from the way they kept the rowdy crowd stomping, cheering and dancing through both blazing sets, the show hit a bull’s-eye.
Lee Brice tripped the trigger on the nearly 3 ½-hour hit parade with his raucous “Parking Lot Party.” But the singer-songwriter, who was casually clad in worn jeans, an untucked button-down shirt and a backwards ball cap, got fans wailing along early with his smash ballads “A Woman Like You,” “Hard to Love” and “Love Like Crazy.” Whether he was playfully popping the top on a cold one for “Beer” or sincerely dedicating “I Drive Your Truck” to our military servicemen and women and their families, the South Carolina native boasted a winning smile and plenty of southern charm.
When it comes to effortless charm and sheer energy, though, it’s hard to imagine many country stars topping Bentley, who soon made use of every inch of his big two-tier stage. The Arizona native immediately incited the boisterous crowd with a trio of amped-up hits: “Am I the Only One,” “Free and Easy (Down the Road I Go)” and “5-1-5-0.”
“That’s what it’s all about tonight,” said Bentley, who took the stage in torn jeans, a black cap that he mostly wore backward, an olive green T-shirt he soon sweated through and a well-worn acoustic guitar.
“This is my fourth time playing in this building, and I can guarantee y’all this’ll be the best time we’ve played here. We’re gonna make the best memories here,” he added, closing his eyes as he crooned the ballad “Every Mile a Memory.”
As he cranked the energy back up with “Lot of Leavin’ Left to Do,” which he said he wrote years ago on a bus in Oklahoma City, the singer-songwriter made sure the night was particularly memorable for one teenage fan.
Bentley pulled Ashlan Mays of Lindsay out of the pit and onto the stage, strapped his electric guitar on her and gave her a quick music lesson. While the superstar dashed around the stage slapping high-fives and tossing picks into the crowd, his band supportively surrounded the teen, who kept strumming with a bemused smile. At the end of the song, Bentley mischievously pointed to Mays, doffed his cap, took a bow and sprinted off the stage. Fortunately, he didn’t leave the rest of the show to the young fan, although he later gave her a signed guitar as a keepsake.
When he returned to belt “Feel That Fire,” he incorporated the fan-favorite moment into the lyrics: “that girl wanted to play my guitar in the Oklahoma City show.” It was one of many Oklahoma name-drops Bentley worked into his set, and while they predictably evoked enthusiastic screams from the multitude, the performer seemed to have a genuine affection for the Sooner State.
Before going acoustic with “Settle for a Slowdown,” Bentley noted that Ronnie Canada, father of his pal Cody Canada of the bands Cross Canadian Ragweed and The Departed, was in the audience.
“Cody is the reason I wear this hat. He gave me this hat a couple of years ago. I think of him every night. We don’t get to hang out as much as we used to, but he’s one of my best friends,” Bentley said.
“Ronnie reminded me that the last time we played OKC, my mom and dad were here ... now my dad is no longer with us. So thanks for being here on this special night and being part of the tour.”
Bentley, who is working on his seventh studio album, even offered up new music with the earnest ballad “I Hold On.”
“If I had to describe myself to a complete stranger ... it would be this song,” he said.
The sexy come-on “Come a Little Closer” got the ladies singing and swaying, the high-octane “Sideways” put everyone in a party state of mind, but it was Bentley’s bluegrass number “Up on the Ridge” that brought the set’s biggest mood shift. With the lights smoky and shadowed, he and his band mates gathered on the top tier of the stage and absolutely threw it down against massive video projection of a moonlit forest.
Still, Bentley saved the best for last, closing with his patriotic hit “Home.” Standing amid spotlights resembling moonbeams, he encouraged the fans to light and raise their cell phones, beautifully filling the arena with simulated starlight as his devotees crooned along with the uplifting anthem.
“There’s something special about Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Thanks for always make us feel at home,” he said.
Playing her adopted home state, Lambert was not about to be outdone by her tour mate. Accompanied by Beyonce’s “Run the World (Girls),” her video introduction paid homage to strong women from the Queen Bey herself and Reba McEntire to Annie Oakley and Patsy Cline and set the stage for the riotous opening salvo of “Fastest Girl in Town,” “Only Prettier” and “That’s the Way the World Goes ‘Round.”