Frederick Breedon, Getty Images
When the original H20 World tour kicked off days following last May's tragic floods in Middle Tennessee, Brad, his band and crew had scrambled to put together a whole new set and production since many of his instruments, equipment and gear were washed away, along with those of hundreds of other artists and musicians. Just before the floods hit, he was all set to rehearse at Nashville's Bridgestone Arena and his lighting grid was already hanging from the ceiling ready to flash the spotlight on what would have been Brad's stage.
"I watched my crew wade through water for this tour. They waded waist deep in water to save what they could and pull this off," Brad told The Boot during his shortened tour rehearsal. "I wouldn't change that for anything and neither would they. It was one of the best weeks of my life in some ways, because I felt like I saw the best in people. I saw the best in my crew. They pulled together something for this tour. We had absolutely nothing left really besides the lights last week."
That experience now far behind him, Brad kept Saturday night's crowd on its feet with his hits 'Online,' 'American Saturday Night' and 'She's Everything,' while pulling from deep within for his scorching guitar licks. He stopped for a few moments to thank the hometown crowd, jokingly recognizing his insurance agent and his doctor in the crowd, saying it was good to be home. The guitar-slinger also acknowledged what a great year it's been for him professionally and how thankful he is for the support from the country music community, before presenting his tribute to the industry, his latest single, 'This is Country Music.'
What is it about a guy with a guitar and a cowboy hat that makes the girls go wild? The talented singer-songwriter had women ranging in age from 16 to 60 swooning, singing along and high-fiving each other when they were able to touch him, catch his eye or take away one of his guitar picks.
Next up was 'Celebrity,' which was accompanied by a video of the big-headed, live bobblehead Brad showing the bad side of being famous, before coming out live on stage, making the real Brad comment, "That's the sexiest Muppet I have ever seen!"
The West Virginia native also regaled the crowd with 'Waitin' on a Woman,' 'Catch All the Fish,' which featured his guitar hero, John Jorgenson (Desert Rose Band, Elton John), 'Letter to Me,' 'Mud on the Tires,' 'I'm Still a Guy,' 'Whiskey Lullaby' (with a simulated appearance by Alison Krauss), 'The World,' 'I'm Gonna Miss Her' and 'Welcome to the Future.'
While Brad performed 'Then,' the ode he wrote for his wife, Kimberly Williams-Paisley, another love story was unfolding in the back of the arena when a man got down on one knee to ask his girlfriend to marry him. She nodded yes, and they slow danced to the last remaining strains of what has now become "their" song.
Spotted in the crowd were several music industry types, as well as Lady Antebellum's Dave Haywood, who took to the band's Twitter page to exclaim, "Darius killing it in Nashville! Love this town. Can't wait to hear Brad Paisley!"
After a brief respite, Brad and his band came back on stage for the encore to perform 'Ticks,' which they followed with an all-star performance of 'Alcohol.' A bar was set up on stage as opening acts, Darius Rucker and Jerrod Niemann, came back to enjoy some refreshments and to sing with Brad. It also seemed everyone who was left backstage -- the other bands, crew members and, most likely, record-label folks -- gathered around the bar, swaying to the music. Nashville resident and music superstar, Sheryl Crow, surprised the crowd when she came on stage with acoustic guitar in hand, to perform alongside Brad.
Earlier in the night, Jerrod Niemann was the first performer on stage, blowing the crowd away with his set, which kicked off with 'The Buckin' Song.' He followed with 'One More Drinkin' Song,' as well as 'Good Ride Cowboy,' the No. 1 song he co-wrote for Garth Brooks in 2005, 'What Do You Want,' 'Down in Mexico,' 'How Can I Be So Thirsty' and 'Lover Lover.'
Darius worked the crowd with several of his own country hits, 'Alright,' 'Don't Think I Don't Think About It,' 'This,' 'It Won't Be Like This for Long' and 'Come Back Song,' and inserting some Hootie & the Blowfish hits, 'I Only Wanna Be With You,' 'Let Her Cry' and 'Hold My Hand.' He also led the audience in a sing-along to his self-professed "theme song," Hank Williams, Jr.'s 'Family Tradition.' Before wrapping up his set with a kick-butt version of Prince's 'Purple Rain,' he explained how sad he was that it was the last show and thanked Brad for letting him come along for the ride.
Brad has a couple of dates on the books, including his next performance at the Houston Live Stock Show & Rodeo on March 19. He is set to release his new studio album, 'This is Country Music,' on May 24.