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Brad Paisley in concert: Nice guy atop country music world

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Leave it to Brad Paisley to talk about nabbing the coveted CMA Entertainer of the Year award in such aw-shucks fashion.

On Wednesday, Paisley won that Country Music Association title for the first time. On Friday, he was back onstage, giving a concert to a filled-to-the-rafters audience at Mohegan Sun Arena.

About midway through the show, he started talking about what a good week it's been. It's the greatest thing, the ever-self-deprecating Paisley said, and didn't know if we'd heard: "I just saved 15 percent on my car insurance."

Then he got serious: "I want to thank all of you for Wednesday night. I couldn't have done it without you."

And, with one final nod to having won the award, he said, "I'm going to do my best tonight to give them no reason to take it back."

No worries.

Paisley knows how to give a top-notch concert.

He exuded a relaxed confidence onstage and, for lack of a better term, a good-guyness.

Of course, all that was shot through with his trademark wry sense of humor. He snuck in some lyrics for "Mud on the Tires," rhyming "Uncasville casino" with "El Camino." After saying he'd try not to give them a reason to take back the Entertainer of the Year award, Paisley broke into a few lines of Beyonce's "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)" - as Johnny Cash might have sung it.

He sang with an understated charm, but he played guitar like the fiery virtuoso he is. Watching his fingers spider up the neck with aggressive dexterity or hearing him coax an eloquent, moody voice from the instrument was nothing if not impressive.

The music was supported by videos that were amusing. They focused on freaky-looking fish for "I'm Gonna Miss Her (The Fishing Song)" and a cascade of computer codes for "Online."

Coolest effect of the evening was a hologram-like video of Alison Krauss so she could duet with Paisley on "Whiskey Lullaby." She looked so real, you could hear folks in the audience gasp at first, thinking she was actually present.

As good as he was, ol' Entertainer-of-the-Year Paisley got a run for his money from opening act Darius Rucker. The erstwhile Hootie-and-the-Blowfish frontman and newly minted country star bubbled with the sheer joy of performing for an arena full of enthusiastic fans. (Nothing like getting a second chance at stardom to make a singer extra-appreciative.)

His 45-minute set blew through Hootie hits and solo country chart-toppers. The latter, particularly "Don't Think I Don't Think About It" and "It Won't Be Like This for Long," allowed more room for Rucker's husky baritone to showcase its range and how expressive it really can be.

Oh, and Rucker threw in a couple of cool, you'd-never-expect-it covers for good measure, happily reflecting his country-pop duality with Prince's "Purple Rain" and Hank Williams Jr.'s "Family Tradition."


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