in performance: jason aldean/miranda lambert

jason aldean.

jason aldean.

On any other night at Applebee’s Park, the game would have been called and the crowd would have been sent home in search of alternate entertainment. Not last night, though. With the heavens open for business thanks to a prolonged rainstorm that managed to last almost the exact length of the sold out Alltech Fortnight Festival opening night concert by country stars Jason Aldean and Miranda Lambert, the park became a sort of homey Woodstock

In short, the show went on, the rain came down and the audience and artists made the best of it.

Let’s say this up front: standing in the rain for roughly three hours can’t help but detract from the definition and depth in even the best of performances. It is certainly no one’s fault that it poured. There is, similarly, no blame to be dispensed over the fact that the storm steadily intensified as the evening wore on until it became the clear that the flashes of light in the sky weren’t stage effects. No one – not Aldean, not Lambert – can beat those odds. I sat through the Rolling Stones at Churchill Downs almost three years ago to the day. Same thing happened. They couldn’t beat the rains either.

Aldean seemed genuinely amazed at the sight. “Only in Kentucky will you find this many rednecks standing in the rain.” That prompted two similarly soaked patrons standing nearby to look each other and wonder if they had just been paid a compliment or not.

To his credit, Aldean came with best of intentions – that, and a smoky Southern singing voice that wrapped around hard electric material like the show opening Wide Open, the more summery country sway of the huge radio hit Big Green Tractor (dispensed with, curiously, early into the set) and a pop-savvy cover of Tom Petty’s I Won’t Back Down. It was all as safe as could be, especially when Aldean fell back upon ballads (Why) and lighter country-pop fare (Amarillo Sky) that would have been suitable moodpieces for a clear autumn evening. But in the midst of last night’s monsoon conditions, the tunes’ intimacy seemed unavoidably remote.

miranda lambert.

miranda lambert.

Lambert took a vastly more unapologetic approach, stuffing her set full of rock oldies by The Faces, Joan Jett and, when the weather took a decided turn for the worse, a hearty cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Have You Ever Seen the Rain.

It was also crossroads time for the singer. Her third album, Revolution, hits stores next week and broadens her stylistic scope with tunes by such Americana greats as John Prine, Fred Eaglesmith and Julie Miller. Little of that came into play last night, however, as Lambert’s pounded her way through a fearsome electric set that was country in only the most coincidental instances.

This was loud, ceremonial but still quite earnest rock ‘n roll at work. Whether she was dancing in the rain beside a Mohawk-ed bassist with a Who t-shirt, constructing a boozy sing-a-long for Jett’s I Love Rock and Roll or whipping up her own electric fury with the set closing Gunpowder and Lead, Lambert was out to prove she was by far the bigger of the storms to hit town last night.

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