Opening bands are there to warm up the audience for the headliner.
Usually, they get some love from the crowd, but almost everyone's energy is saved for the big name at the end of the night.
On Saturday at the CenturyLink Center Omaha, more than 14,000 in the sold-out arena had a hard time choosing whom they liked more: opener Jake Owen or headliner Jason Aldean.
Aldean played almost 80 minutes to screaming fans who filled the arena floor-to-ceiling. He started with “Crazy Town,” finished with “Hicktown,” and played every one of his hits in between.
Aldean is a country superstar, and sold-out shows full of screaming country fans are the norm for him and his five-piece band. His songs are engaging and are about the sort of everyday stuff — tractors, Johnny Cash, harvest moons, Chevy trucks, small towns and trains — that endears people to country music.
Even though his big show and well-crafted songs create great energy, Aldean is not that all engaging of a performer on his own. Performed live, most of his songs sound just like their recorded versions.
Owen, on the other hand, is a natural entertainer, and he continually injected new life into his songs.
All smiles, long hair and high fives, opener Owen took the stage to perform for a crowd that bought tickets to see the other guy (Aldean), but he pulled them into his set with his good looks, charisma and natural talent.
As he sang songs such as “Yee Haw,” “The One That Got Away” and “Summer Jam,” he signed autographs, gave lots of Omaha shout outs, borrowed (and chugged) a beer from a fan and took another fan's camera and snapped a photo of himself.
Later, during his hit song “Barefoot Blue Jean Night,” Owen launched into the theme from “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” to laughs and a lot of folks singing along. Then, in between two other tunes, he sang a few bars of the Counting Crows song “Omaha.”
Owen also played the as-yet-unreleased “Life of the Party,” a song about trying to keep a calm, fun-having face in the wake of ending a relationship.
Everything Owen did was engaging, fun and entertaining. I imagine that a lot of fans who attended Saturday's show are at home today downloading his songs.
Owen didn't quite blow Aldean out of the water, despite his excellent effort. Aldean put on a heckuva show, and the audience showed him lots of love.
“Thank y'all so much. How y'all doin' tonight?” he said. “You guys sound like you're ready to throw down on a Saturday night. I like that.”
Aldean has always been about as much rock 'n' roll as he is country. The modern music fan likely walks around with an iPod full of both Metallica and George Strait, and Aldean definitely appeals to that sort of fan.
Several songs — including “Amarillo Sky,” “Hicktown” and “My Kinda Party” were way more rock than country (unless you consider barely audible pedal steel guitar or twangy vocals to automatically be considered country music).
That said, tunes such as “The Truth,” “Big Green Tractor” and “Don't You Wanna Stay” were solidly twangy and, like many of his other tunes, inspired the audience to sing along quite loudly.
Contact the writer: firstname.lastname@example.org, 402-444-1557, twitter.com/owhmusicguy