Dierks Bentley ‘Livin’ on a Prayer’ at PNC Bank Arts Center opener – Asbury Park Press

Posted: Monday, May 19, 2014

Glad-handed country star Dierks Bentley seems like the kind of guy you can have a beer with.

And one fan did just that at Bentley’s sold-out, season-opening concert Sunday, May 18 at the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel. Bentley brought a muscled-up audience member on stage — they both flexed their arms for the crowd — and the two each drank a can of beer. Later in the show, he asked for another beer and he got one — and then some.

A fan handed him the brew plus a cowboy boot.

“Not only do you get a beer but you get a boot — it’s unbelievable,” Bentley said. “It’s not my size.”

It’s all part of Bentley’s “Riser” tour, his first amphitheater-headlining show. There were lots of good old boy drinking songs in the set — “Drunk on a Plane,” “Tip It On Back” — and good-natured interaction with the crowd.

He led a singalong on a portion of the Bon Jovi classic, “Livin’ on a Prayer.”

“The first concert I ever went to, the guy singing was from New Jersey,” said Bentley, an Arizona native. “It wasn’t Bruce Springsteen. I was a Bon Jovi guy. It was Bon Jovi and Skid Row.”

However, Bentley lost points when an audience member handed him a shirt and he unveiled it be a Philadelphia Phillies jersey. The audience booed. That might work about 30 miles southwest of Holmdel. Not here.

Sure, there were lots of good time antics at the arts center, but musically, Bentley can deliver some heart-aching country, too. He has a rich, warm tenor voice with a dusty drawl and, when applied, it can evoke a somber past or a resolute future. “Every Mile a Memory” was a classic road song and the melancholy “I Hold On” has the power of a V6 and the drive of a locomotive.

Still, there were few tears and lots of beers on this night, which also saw opening sets from Jon Pardi, Chase Rice and rising star Chris Young. Several times Bentley referred to the evening as the best night of his life. We’re not sure if that’s his standard stage banter or if he was sincere, but you did get the feeling he had a sense of accomplishment.

“I played every bar in New Jersey and I even played a barbecue,” Bentley said. “This is the best night in my life.”

For the fans, the night started with tailgating in the arts center’s parking lots, despite an incorrect published report stating that tailgating had been banned by the township council. That is not the case. Venue operator Live Nation has said that tailgating is allowed at all concerts this year.

Bentley’s fans were pleased.

“Everyone who brought the Country Megaticket was going to sale their tickets (if tailgating were banned),” said Katelyn Bird, 25 of Old Bridge, prior to the show .

Chris Jordan: 732-643-4060; cjordan@app.com


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