Brad Paisley is well known as the affable co-host of the Country Music Association awards.
The Glen Dale, W.Va., native is also the closest thing to a guitar god that country music has to offer. The "Telecaster Tornado" showcased his blazing fretwork for two solid hours on the "Beat This Summer" Tour Saturday night at a packed First Niagara Pavilion.
He emerged in his signature white hat with an ear-to-ear grin and opened the shredding fest with a laser-laden "Southern Comfort Zone" from his new album, "Wheelhouse."
The country star considers the Pavilion to be his home venue and has been going there to see shows since he was a kid. Given his local ties, he played to the crowd at every opportunity, dedicating the fun "Mud on the Tires" to all the local "rednecks who can't keep their trucks clean."
A trio of video screens was used effectively throughout. From the Captain America comic book coming to life during "American Saturday Night" to the eerily realistic virtual duet with Carrie Underwood on "Remind Me," there was no shortage of technical wizardry.
When the set list called for the tender duet with Andy Griffith,"Waitin' On A Woman," Paisley unexpectedly began a furious jam to Van Halen's "Hot For Teacher." After jokingly complaining that drummer Ben Sesar was not playing the song correctly, 6-year-old prodigy Avery Molek was brought on as a guest. The Washington, Pa., native pounded his way through the complex, uptempo number to the delight and amazement of the crowd.
Midway, Mr. Paisley performed a four-song acoustic set directly to the lawn, saying, "These are the best seats I could get when I came here, so I know what it's like."
He closed with the wildly popular "Alcohol," with which the crowd seemed to be more than lyrically familiar.
Mr. Paisley is easily one of the most capable guitarists in any genre. He is able to effortlessly cross boundaries and could be mistaken for a rock star. With the show's high energy and slick production, it felt like just that at times.