A little more than a year after he drew a sell-out crowd of nearly 14,000 fans to Intrust Bank Arena, country star Jason Aldean was back in Wichita on Thursday.
This time, he filled the arena with nearly 10,500 people, a noticeable number of them in their teens and 20s, most adhering to the young country dress code – short sundress with cowgirl boots for her, plaid shirt and tight-fitting jeans for him.
The show last year, performed in-the-round so that every seat in the arena – even those behind the stage – was available, drew the arena’s largest crowd of 2012. Fueled by Aldean’s young country appeal and lower-than-typical ticket prices, that concert drew more people than George Strait’s or Carrie Underwood’s 2012 Wichita shows.
Thursday’s concert had a more typical arena set up, with the stage pressed up against the back of the floor, and Aldean – who’s touring in support of his most recent album, “Night Train” – filled the length of that stage with screens flashing snippets of his videos (most of them featuring pickup trucks) and a bank of 15 speakers, lined up side-by-side behind his five-member band.
Aldean ran onto the stage carrying a guitar and wearing light-blue jeans, a form-fitting plaid shirt and a cowboy hat situated so low it obscured his eyes. He opened with “Crazy Town,” a song from his 2009 album “Wide Open.” The crowd rushed the stage immediately, and ushers made no attempt to keep people out of the area surrounding the catwalk jutting out from the stage.
The next song was “Take a Little Ride,” the lead single from “Night Train” and the first of many Aldean would perform from the current album. Also on the set list from “Night Train”: “When She Says Baby,” “This Nothin’ Town,” “1994,” “The Only Way I Know” and the title track.
The rest of the set was a well-distributed mix of songs from the singer’s first four albums, including his big radio hit “Flyover States,” the first noticeable singalong of the night. The lyric “or caught a harvest moon in Kansas” drew loud cheers.
Fans also sang along loudly to “Amarillo Sky,” “She’s Country,” “Big Green Tractor,” “Dirt Road Anthem,” “My Kinda Party” and “Hicktown.”
When he performed “Don’t You Wanna Stay,” his hit duet with Kelly Clarkson, Aldean took a page from Brad Paisley’s playbook and projected a shockingly realistic hologram of Clarkson onto the stage. Several in the crowd seemed to believe she was actually in the house. Paisley did the same thing with an image of Underwood at a show in Wichita last year.
Aldean had two opening acts: First up was up-and-comer Thomas Rhett, the son of singer-songwriter Rhett Atkins, who co-wrote a song on Aldean’s album “My Kinda Party.”
Second was Jake Owen, on his third opening-act appearance in recent years in the Wichita area. He opened for Billy Currington at last year’s Kansas State Fair and for Keith Urban when he played Intrust Bank Arena in 2011.
Owen was onstage for more than an hour and performed several of his well-known radio hits, including “Alone With You” and “Don’t Think I Can’t Love You.”