Denise Neil

Big arena acts encouraging even if you don't dig country

I'll admit that when I first heard Brad Paisley would be the opening act at Intrust Bank Arena, I wasn't exactly kickin' up the heels of my cowboy boots. (And not just because I don't own any, y'all.)

I'd been hearing the U2 and Eagles rumors for months like everyone else and had developed seriously inflated expectations for the opening act.

Not that Brad Paisley isn't a big deal. As a country music fan I know pointed out, he's won both Country Music Association and Academy of Country Music male vocalist of the year awards for three years in a row, including this year. And that's a very big deal — if you like country music.

But if you don't, you were left with a nagging sense of doubt where your U2 hopes had once rockingly resided.

And if you don't, the next few concert announcements, including Taylor Swift, Tim McGraw and George Strait, didn't do much to douse those doubts.

For music fans whose radio dials have never lingered on KFDI, early news out of the arena's scheduling department has been a little hard to take and has resulted in lots of grumbling — on social media, in the comments section and at various watercoolers around town.

It's tempting to grumble along because I'm not a huge fan of country music either (though I certainly don't hate it). But even if you do hate it, if you'd just boot-scoot back a few steps, you'd recognize that the early news out of the arena is actually quite encouraging.

The Bon Jovi booking on March 11 helps with perspective, for sure. It's not U2 or the Eagles, but Bon Jovi is a popular, respected band that appeals to a variety of ages and musical tastes.

And even if Taylor Swift's sugary country pop doesn't do much for you, you can't deny that she's hot right now, and her tour is really only stopping in major cities. Same with George Strait, a country legend (touring with fellow legend Reba McEntire) who packs 'em in and whose tour date list includes mostly larger venues.

Check the schedules for the foreseeable future at Dallas' American Airlines Center and Denver's Pepsi Center, and you'll find only a few acts besides Taylor Swift and Bon Jovi listed, most notably the Elton John/Billy Joel show and Jay-Z.

The arena can't book acts that aren't touring, and it would be unrealistic for Wichitans to expect the arena to be able to book every act that's touring, no matter how much we might like to see them.

But if the arena's booking department can keep the momentum it's built so far, I doubt Wichita will be disappointed — even if that momentum is thus far a bit cowboyish in nature.