The last time Dierks Bentley came to Ottawa was in December 2014. For that show he brought Tim Hicks and Randy Houser…it was also the first show we ever covered at the Canadian Tire Centre. That show was amazing… last night, however, was something that, when it was over, made me sit in awe asking #WhatTheHell did I just witness.
The show started out with Jon Pardi, although it was a shorter set than he had when we saw him in Kingston with Kip Moore, it didn’t take Jon long to get the, near sellout, crowd fired up and energised with his up tempo, toe tapping, make you wanna get up and dance, songs. From his hits “Head over Boots” and “Up All Night” to the title track of his sophomore studio album “California Sunrise” it was clear that Ottawa was in for one heck of a night if the rest of the lineup came out as strong as Jon did.
Following Jon was an artist that I have had on my concert bucket list for a number of years, Cole Swindell. By the reaction of the crowd when Cole took to the stage it was clear that everyone in that building felt the same was as me. I had high hopes for Cole and I’m so thrilled that he did not disappoint. Cole came out swinging wearing his trademark Georgia State baseball cap (yes it’s GS not CS as many seem to think). Having now seen Dierks 4 times (Boots and Hearts twice and CTC twice) I was there for Cole.
Cole Swindell is definitely on my wish list for Boots and Hearts or RBC Bluesfest or any other festival I attend that has country music because last night’s set just wasn’t enough. From “Chillin It” and the ultimate break-up song “Ain’t Worth the Whiskey” to “Middle of a Memory”. The massive audience, likely the largest on their Ontario tour to date, humbled Cole who at one point stopped and said to the crowd “As an artist, a songwriter and a performer this is the kind of crowd you dream of performing in front of!” He was visibly touched by the crowd’s response to “Middle of a Memory” and thanked them for allowing him to be part of their memories that night.
Prior to finding success as a performer Cole was a songwriter and has written hit songs for some of today’s top country stars. As he was getting ready to wrap up his show Cole took the audience through a medley of some of his most recognizable hits as a songwriter which included the songs “Get Me Some of That” which he wrote for Thomas Rhett, “Rollercoaster” which he wrote for Luke Bryan and “This is How we Roll” which he wrote for Florida Georgia Line.
Cole wrapped up the night with his uber emotional “You Should Be Here” which made the Canadian Tire Centre light up with thousands of cell phone lights and, I’m certain, left very few dry eyes in the house as Cole sang the song in front of a slide show dedicated to his late father who, at the end of the song, Cole proclaimed “should be here to see this”.
Dierks Bentley took to the stage next and boy let me tell you over the next, almost two hours, the audience was in for a mega treat. I don’t know if the current political state in the USA played a part in it but wow this was by far the strongest, and most passionate, I’ve ever seen Dierks Bentley.
Kicking the party off with “Up on the Ridge” the show was a thrill ride from start to finish fully loaded with monster hits like “Tip it On Back”, the always fun “5-1-5-0” the thought provoking “It’s Different for Girls” (minus Elle King) and of course his powerful single “I Hold On”, the video montage for this song ended with a tribute to his best friend, and touring partner for much of his career, Jake, the dog, who passed away late last year.
Midway through the show, as is customary for Dierks, he brought Jon Pardi back out on stage. Dierks’ crew presented Jon with a, flower adorned, pink microphone stand. Pardi jokingly jumped into a chorus of Prince’s “Purple Rain” before the two started taking about George Strait and then performing a duet of Strait’s 1973 hit “Amarillo by Morning”. Following the duet Bentley jumped into his latest single “Black” which he followed with the pumped up “Feel That Fire” after which he took a short dash through the crowd to the far stage platform. Hey thanked the fans that had seats at the back of the arena telling them “this would be incredibly awkward if you guys wouldn’t be here because I’d be standing here talking to myself.”
Even Dierks seemed taken aback by the crowd, at one point he said to the crowd “I’m nervous, we’ve been coming up here since 2003 but we’ve never played in front of this many people.”
Bentley briefly touched on the state of the world politically telling the crowd that “Now more than ever we should never take for granted the freedoms we have!” which lead into the perfect song, “Home”. The message in this song speaks volumes with everything that’s going on in the USA right now. Lyrics like: “Free, nothing feels like free. Though it sometimes means we don’t get along. Cause same, no we’re not the same but that’s what makes us strong.” The song closes with the words “It’s been a long, hard ride and I won’t lose hope. This is still the place that we all call home!”
One thing was certain, Dierks loved his two appearances, so far, at Boots and Hearts. On more than one occasion he talked about his love for the event that he appeared at this past summer in in 2013. “This feels like Boots and Hearts, its such a fun festival.” Something tells me we haven’t seen the last of him at the annual event and based on the crowd response last night I have a feeling he’d be welcomed back with open arms.
The show moved back to the mainstage where Cole Swindell returned to perform his latest single “Flatliners”, which also features Dierks Bentley. Our friend Tim Hicks got a mention in “What was I Thinking”, the crowd roared when they heard Tim’s name. The main show ended, much like it did in 2014, with Dierks going “Sideways”. By this time it was already 11pm, most shows that come to Ottawa are wrapped up long before and here Dierks was still ramping up for his grand finale…and what a finale it would be too!
The stage lights lit up in the shape of a plane and every one of the estimated 10,000 fans in attendance knew what was coming and Dierks didn’t disappoint. There was video footage of Dierks in the cockpit of an airplane and then suddenly with a bright flash of light the nose of an airplane appeared on centre stage with Bentley at the controls. This was the start of a 12 minute party which saw Cole, Jon and members of the audience join Dierks on the stage.
What a show. Definitely jacked up 14 notches from the last time Dierks was in town and I’m already looking forward to the next time.
Dierks and the boys head to London tonight before jetting off to Western Canada for a few shows before returning home and wrapping up the tour in the Las Vegas this March.
For more coverage from Saturday night’s concert visit us on social media and don’t forget to enter our Boots and Hearts ticket contest here.
For information on Dierks’ What The Hell Tour and where it’s headed next and how to get tickets visit www.dierks.com