Singer-songwriter Dierks Bentley proved time and time again Friday night, during his "What the Hell World Tour" stop at Mattress Firm Amphitheatre in Chula Vista, why he is one of the top stars in country music today.
Here's a look at four takeaways from the 2017 Country Megaticket concert (of which Bentley was originally an unannounced performer).
- Bentley has a deep, sexy and gravelly voice that isn't overpowering and complements his diverse hit catalog of party songs (Somewhere on a Beach, Drunk on a Plane), ballads (Settle for a Slowdown, Come a Little Closer) and thoughtful tracks that inspire (Riser, I Hold On).
- The two-time Academy of Country Music Awards co-host alongside Luke Bryan graciously shares the spotlight. On Friday, opening act Jon Pardi and Bentley performed George Strait's Troubadour, and Bentley is featured on Cole Swindell's latest hit Flatliner, which also was performed by the two singer-songwriters at the amphitheater.
- How can you not like the husband, 41, and father of three after he paid tribute to the family dog, "our pal Jake (2000-2016)," on the big screen after a song?
- And Phoenix-native Bentley, who comes across as down to earth and sincere, clearly appreciates the military, with repeated salutes, and his fans, with repeated high-fives and autographs. During Friday night's performance, he made his way through the crowd to perform in the center of the amphitheater, giving fans all around him an acoustic and up-close view.
Country music and summer outdoor concerts go hand-in-hand, and it the case of the Friday evening show, Bentley elevated the pairing. Here are six must-listen Bentley songs in the categories of sexy, sentimental, slow (ballads) and inspirational:
Come a Little Closer
Settle for a Slowdown
I Hold On
Different for Girls (featuring Elle King)
Californian Pardi, 32, and Georgian Swindell, 34, both of whom have broken out in the last few years, were strong and popular opening acts in the tour stop that kicked off at 7 p.m. and ended shortly before 11.
Pardi, the 2017 ACM New Male Vocalist of the Year, struck a chord with his hits Head Over Boots, Dirt on My Boots and Heartache on the Dancefloor, while the repeatedly thankful Swindell was in party and ballad mode with Chillin' It, Ain't Worth the Whiskey, You Should Be Here, Middle of a Memory and Flatliner.
Don Chareunsy is an arts and entertainment editor and reporter based in Las Vegas. He worked at The San Diego Union-Tribune from 2002-2008.