Sometimes I become this "grumpy old man" when it comes to new music. I firmly think that 98 percent of new music - and the artists who make it - is more from the marketing of the artist rather than heaping praise on whatever substance they may have. It's no longer about records; it's about products and commodities. If you're a pretty face and possess a trace of musical aptitude, people will go out of their way to make sure you're the proverbial next big thing. You don't have to write a song, or even come up with the ideas in some cases. If you are deemed to have a little bit of charisma, the corporate machine can go on and on for as long as it wishes.
Which brings me to Jason Aldean. To me, Aldean doesn't seem to really have much in the way of talent or appeal, yet in a short span, he's accomplished successes that would leave guys like Johnny Cash or Hank Williams Sr. astonished. Each of his three albums ("Wide Open," "Relentless" and his debut self-titled album) has reached the Top 10 Country album charts, with "Relentless" topping the charts and "Wide Open" hitting at number 2. His singles have been just as impressive, with seven songs hitting the Top 10 County singles, including two in the number one spot for "Why" and "She's Country." After touring in support of acts for several years, Aldean finally headlined his own tour with this concert filmed from a sold-out Knoxville Coliseum in March of 2009. The set list is as follows:
"I Break Everything I Touch"
"Big Green Tractor"
"On My Highway"
"You're the Love I Wanna Be In"
"Laughed Until We Cried"
"I Use What I Got"
Now, I'm admittedly not familiar with the works of Aldean, and I don't know if this is a completely exhaustive set, but if there's not much left on the cutting room floor, I've got to take issue with something. The runtime of the performance is slightly more than an hour. What is a drum solo doing in here? Drum solos can be entertaining and even fun, but this is neither, and in a 66-minute performance, it shows a lack of imagination. Aldean's pretty mug can apparently only carry a concert for so long.
And this echoes a problem that I have with Aldean's performance. The songs are hollow, and all seem to say (and sound) the same. Many of the songs are driven by electric guitars and a traditional band setup. Yet there's Aldean, the attractive front man, playing an acoustic guitar and strumming two or three chords. Perhaps it's designed to show he's versatile, or maybe it's designed to make the songs more "country," but in between that, the obligatory song written about Cash, and talking about having the proverbial fun time in a show, Aldean is just the good-looking face behind the marketing power of today's musical junta. And as long as it keeps selling records, nobody will care a thing about it. Now if you'll excuse me, this grumpy old man has to chase some kids off his lawn.
The Blu-Ray Disc:
As is the case with Eagle Rock-produced Blu-ray concert discs, Wide Open Live is presented in 1.78:1 widescreen and in 1080i high definition with the AVC MPEG-4 codec. It's not a reference-quality Blu-ray concert disc - there are some moments of image softness and blacks which would occasionally crush - but the facial detail and tight shots are capable and consistent for most of the performance. There's a few individual audience member shots which have more clarity than I was expecting, and it was a pleasant surprise.
You've got a DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless track, a Dolby Digital 5.1 surround lossy track and an LPCM two-channel option from which to choose. They're innocuous but effective works; the music is well focused in each of the front channels, and the crowd noise is a warm bath full of immersive sound. You don't get anything in the way of subwoofer engagement or low- end fidelity, but any one of these soundtracks will do the job if you're a fan of Aldean.
Well, there is an additional song on there, a cover version of Tom Petty's "I Won't Back Down" (3:15) which is unremarkable. "Up Close and Personal" (17:51) examines the work put into the concert, with interview footage from Aldean. There's an ample amount of screen time spent filming the road crew put the stage together, but that time is excessive, and the piece could easily have been cut in half and have the same value.
Jason Aldean Wide Open Live might appeal to some of its core fans (which as far as I could tell were younger females), but as a guy who likes his country with a little more western, I can't say that I was all that impressed. Technically, it's good but not great, and the extra material is fluff more than anything else. I wouldn't waste your time with the disc.