Live: Dierks Bentley Brings Out "Will Ferrell" in Long Island
The Jägermeister Tour featuring Dierks Bentley, Josh Thompson, and Sean Patrick McGraw Long Island Community Bank Theatre at Westbury Sunday, March 27
Better than: Staving off the Sunday night blues with a screening of Talladega Nights.
For much of his show on at the former Westbury Music Fair, Dierks Bentley couldn't believe that the throng in front of him was a Sunday-night crowd. "Is this Sunday night?" he asked after being hailed for his opening number "Feel That Fire." The rapturous response was both an affirmation and a signal that most people in the crowd weren't going to worry about Monday morning until they'd reached the Long Island Expressway.
Bentley's music is well-suited to a party atmosphere, even when it's focused on matters of the heart; it's fairly straightforward rock-and-roll with just enough twang to cause people to add cowboy hats to their outfits before they walk out the door. He's an incredibly gracious performer even when singing about liking cars more than women (as he did on the new track "'69 Mustang"), thanking his fans over and over and giving them a peek into his bus with a medley of "busgrass" tracks--songs that he and his co-workers jam on when they can't sleep, including the theme to The Dukes of Hazzard, Billy Idol's "Rebel Yell" (which got a very convincing country makeover), and Bon Jovi's "Wanted Dead Or Alive," on which vocal duties were (quite ably) handled by bassist Cassady Feasby.
Bentley has weathered-teen-idol looks and an easy rapport with his band--some of the show's best moments came when he and his fellow musicians would jam out with one another, eyes locked--and his giving the crowd an OK to sit down at one point further proved his sensitive-dude bona fides. (Plus, you know, it's important to conserve energy for the big finish.) He played both sides of the gender aisle expertly; the new track "Diamonds Make Babies" was a sort of warning to anyone in the audience thinking that getting engaged wouldn't slow down their partying, while the midtempo ode to satisfying a lover "I Wanna Make You Close Your Eyes" made many of the women in the audience swoon.
There was even a celebrity in the house--kind of. Bentley took a break at one point to introduce Will Ferrell, who was sitting a few rows from the stage, clad in his Wonder Bread-logo-spangled Ricky Bobby gear from Talladega Nights. He waved to the crowd and after that was bothered by a constant stream of people who wanted an autograph, or a photo, or just a kind word or two; he was then invited onstage for the final song of the night, the rave-up "What Was I Thinkin'."
But as it turned out, alas, the starspotting was all for naught; "Will Ferrell" was just someone who really looked a lot like the SNL alum, especially in the theater's low light. (Perhaps his being invited onstage to sing, and not play cowbell should have been a clue.) The Ferrell impersonator has apparently shown up at Bentley's New York-area shows before, and his inauthentic status didn't stop people from lining up afterward--even outside, in the cold--to take pictures with him. It was only 10 p.m. when the show let out, so there was plenty of time to wait, even on a Sunday night.
Opener Josh Thompson powered through a speedy 10-song set that shone a spotlight on the not-all-that-subtle link between '10s country and late '80s hard rock, with some of his band's down-and-dirty grooves bringing to mind the former Headbanger's Ball staple Cinderella. (Thompson's voice, however, is much deeper than Tom Kiefer's Janis-like wail.) The ponytailed singer wore his heart and his faith on his sleeve, singing one confessional song in which he outlined his breaking of various Commandments and another in which he discussed his devotion to John Wayne, Johnny Cash, and John Deere. (Lest you think he's a complete teetotaler, though, he took a shot of the presenting sponsor's wares early in his set.)
But it was his last song that not only cemented his winning even those members of the crowd who might have been turned off by his more jingoistic tendencies, but also primed the partying pump well for Bentley's set. Tackling Billy Joel in front of a bunch of the Piano Man's fellow islanders is a risk, but the audience ate up his muscular take on "You May Be Right." Thompson even ran into the crowd to dole out some high fives and give a few autographs--an impressive bit of multitasking, particularly given that his band was covering a song that every member of the audience knew right down to the last ad-lib.
Critical bias: I'm a sucker for any outfit that lets its fiddle player shine as often as Bentley's band did.
Overheard: "Hold up... you got a cup?" -- guy who ordered a Bud Light tallboy to his friends, who chose the sorts of beers you get in bottles.
Setlist: Feel That Fire Every Mile A Memory Am I The Only One Free and Easy (Down The Road I Go) Lot Of Leavin' Left To Do I Wanna Make You Close Your Eyes Up On The Ridge Settle For A Slowdown '69 Mustang How Am I Doin' Draw Me A Map Dukes of Hazzard theme / All My Exes Live In Texas / Rebel Yell / Wanted Dead Or Alive Pride (In The Name Of Love) Diamonds Make Babies Come A Little Closer Sideways What Was I Thinkin'
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