Friday Night: Blake Shelton at Reliant Stadium
I want to like Blake Shelton. I really do. But damned if he doesn't make it nearly impossible.
Shelton might make a decent country singer if he didn't look so pleased with himself, and if his music pushed the needle on the give-a-damn ometer even into the yellow once in a while. Friday night at RodeoHouston, he gave off an air of someone who had just eaten a big meal and was about to undo not only his belt buckle but perhaps the top button of his trousers as well.
That's not a particularly good look at the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo, where belt buckles mean something. If it's possible for someone to be both smug and shiftless at the same time, Shelton was.
I sensed trouble might be brewing right off the bat, with the lackadasical manner in which Shelton delivered supposed party-anthem opener "All About Tonight." The singer delivered the lyrics of "feel-good pills" and "dumbass buddies" with not even enough energy to punch his way through a wet paper bag.
It was more like maybe we'll party, maybe we won't. Then he made it worse by declaring "we're gonna get our swerve on." Meh. Just don't.
Shelton carried this alleged good-timin' theme through the next two songs, "Some Beach" and "Drink On It," without increasing the intensity at all. For a guy who purports to enjoy singing about surf and sand and suds, Kenny Chesney he is not.
But even a blind pig finds an acorn once in a while. "Ol' Red," his swampy ode to a prison hound, pushed across some legitimate bluesy twang. And I'm sorry, but hearing "Hillbilly Bone" makes the 12-year-old in me crack up every time.
Shelton also seems to do a little better when the lights are lower, with sweeping romantic ballads like "Honeybee," "Austin," new single "Sure Be Cool If You Did," and "Over," which was so melodramatic the rodeo should have run clips from various Lifetime movies on the video screens above the revolving stage.
None of them are all that memorable, really, but they do seem to work pushing the buttons of Shelton's scores of female fans, which packed Reliant by the extended-cab truckload Friday. Miranda, ladies, he's all yours.