The best audiences in Vancouver are country audiences.
As a city notorious for its drab, relatively dance-averse onlookers, it usually takes a combination of rough and rowdy country fans and a healthy amount of beer to get a Vancouver venue on its feet and hollering.
Last night's (February 9) Dierks Bentley performance, at the home of the Canucks — which featured an impressive lit-up multi-media triangular risen stage for the drummer — was for some very excitable, cowboy hat- and boot-wearing onlookers, and Bentley fed off of it gleefully.
Having made his way across Canada for his What the Hell tour, the Arizona native was full of Canadian love — even showing a video of him and his bandmates curling at one point in the evening — and, especially, love for Vancouver, as he played host to one heck of a party. Bentley kicked off the evening with heavy-hitter "Up on the Ridge" and gave the impression, as the night went on, that he has spent most of his career spitting out Top 40 hits like they were about to go out of style.
Songs like "Free and Easy (Down the Road I Go)" hit a place of nostalgia for a lot of country fans, a place Bentley knows well. The loveable party-boy tapped into that on Thursday, as he implored the audience to join him in getting good 'n' drunk.
Mentioning that he had first performed at Rogers Arena back in 2004 as an opener for country music veteran George Strait, Bentley brought his own opener, John Pardi, onstage to join in on a rendition of Strait's "All My Exes Live in Texas." Shotgunning a beer with a fan after seeing their sign that mentioned it as a bucket list wish, Bentley was all about the fun times. His adventure-lovin' hit "Am I the Only One" got fans drinking faster and foot-stomping harder.
Endearing moments between Bentley and his band members, as well as his openers Pardi and Cole Swindell, gave concertgoers a taste of Southern charm, while his humble thankfulness for years of support was evident. Through hits like "5-1-5-0," "Somewhere on a Beach" and "Sideways," Bentley came across relatable and affable, his skinny jeans, simple black t-shirt and jacket belying his Nashville roots.
Surprising the crowd by literally switching stages halfway through the show and setting up for a few songs at the opposite end of the arena, Bentley seemed to want to give all his fans an especially memorable night. He happily accepted a Molson Canadian that a fan placed on the stage, and ripped into sentimental tracks like "Home" and songs from his latest album, Black. "Feel That Fire," one of his more lyrically appealing songs, was delivered wonderfully, but there was a little hole in the setlist where "Sweet and Wild" should have been.
Rounding off the night with what appeared to be a life-sized airliner cockpit, a pilot costume and more appearances from Swindell and Pardi, Bentley threw a pile of energy on the audience with fan favourite "Drunk on a Plane." After tearing open his costume to reveal a Vancouver Canucks jersey, the crowd — if they had not been before —let him know, via cheering, just how completely in love with him they were.