Dierks Bentley headlines first show at State Farm in over two years

By Emma Palatnik, Contributing writer

Dierks Bentley took his “Somewhere on a Beach” tour down to Champaign on Thursday night.

This was the first concert at State Farm Center in over two years and it attracted fans from all over central Illinois. Students, community members and country music lovers came out for the show.

Rising country singers Drake White and Randy Houser opened the show for Bentley. Both singers showcased songs that had the crowd dancing and singing along with them.

Immediately following his set, White had a meet and greet with fans at the concert. Before he left the stage, he mistakenly said he was ready to “shake some babies and kiss some hands,” he corrected himself afterward.

Alongside White and his band onstage was a taxidermy cat smoking a cigarette. The cat even made its way to the meet and greet and had its own spot on the table.

During his set, White played songs off of his debut album which was released in early August.

Houser had fans singing with him during his popular song, “Like a Cowboy.” He walked to the end of the thrust and belted out the words to his song, occasionally pausing to speak to the crowd.

“I love my job,” Houser said.

Houser’s band showed their Illini pride. One member was wearing an Illini shirt and another shirt was draped over the piano.

Toward the end of his set, Houser invited White back on stage to sing a duet with him. Both artists had the audience moving with their classic country song.

As Houser was closing up, he looked to the audience and said, “thank you Champaign, Illinois, for one of the best Thursday nights of my life.” The crowd cheered in response.

In between each set, the stage was transformed to fit each artist’s performance. Between White and Houser, parts of the stage were uncovered. After Houser finished, the change involved the removal of a tall curtain and the installation of different set pieces. Large visual screens were added as well.

At 9:30 p.m., it was finally Bentley’s turn to take the stage. Upon his entrance, the crowd in the pit pushed closer to the stage. The fans in seats stood up.

Bentley sang a mix of his songs, bringing back old favorites along with ones from his new album, Black. Songs included were “Tip it on Back,” “5-1-5-0,” “Somewhere on a Beach,” “Different for Girls” and “Black,” which is nominated for a Country Music Award.

Bentley said he drove a 1994 truck with his dad to Nashville, Tennessee, back when he was first starting in the music business. He still drives that truck today, even though he said, thanks to his fans, he could get a new one. Bentley then sang “I Hold On,” a song he wrote all about the ’94 truck and his old guitar, which he still plays.

Bentley spoke to the crowd and had them sing along with him. At times, he stopped singing and pointed the microphone to the crowd. Fans filled in the vocal gaps with their loud voices.

Three years ago, Bentley and his band performed in Champaign with Miranda Lambert. Thirteen years ago, all the way back in 2003, Bentley played at The Canopy Club in Urbana. Bentley said if someone told him in 2003 that he would headline in 2016, he wouldn’t have believed them.

The artist honored soldiers and others fighting for the United States with his song, “Freedom.” Bentley said his favorite place to see the American flag is on the right sleeve of a soldier.

The country singer closed the show with his hit, “Drunk on a Plane.” Bentley changed into a shirt, jacket, pilot’s hat and a tie. His tie was hanging to the side and his jacket was rumpled. He arrived on stage in a fake plane, with him sitting in the pilot’s seat.

The Dierks Bentley concert was the start to a weekend of shows at the State Farm Center. The 1975 performs Friday and Pentatonix will play on Saturday. Future performances include Jason Derulo on Dec. 3 and Green Day on March 28. Tickets for upcoming concerts are on sale on the State Farm Center website.

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