PASO ROBLES — Hair perfectly coiffed, a country drawl, a guitar and what looked like an 805 in a koozie is all it took for Blake Shelton to turn a Sunday night in Paso Robles into a full fledged country hoedown. The California Mid-State Fair stacked their lineup for their opening weekend having back-to-back sold out shows on Saturday and Sunday with Cardi B playing first and the country crooner closing out the weekend in style. The two distinctly different types of music led to wildly different crowds as Saturday’s patrons filled the Chumash Arena Grandstand in a sea of dark colors (mostly black), brunette hair and designer shoes only to be replaced on Sunday by plaid sleeveless shirts, cowboy hats and enough pairs of worn out boots to keep a shoe cobbler in business for life.
From the first second the show began it was hard to tell who was enjoying themselves more, Shelton or the audience. The country superstar who elevated his status even further by becoming a judge on the hit television show “The Voice” showcased his patented southern charm winning over the audience after his first song commenting on just how beautiful all the women in attendance were, chumming the water like an experienced fisherman hunting for sharks.
With each swing of his hips and twang in his voice the audience, men and women alike, began to swoon. Beer in hand, Shelton took us through a musical journey starting first with his self-proclaimed drinking songs before weaving in some of his classic hits and even brought out a surprise in Gwen Stefani that had the crowd cheering so hard it might have registered on the Richter scale. While Shelton commented on all the gorgeous women in attendance, his attention was fixed on the beautiful blonde that spent the majority of her night sitting just off stage with cream colored floral boots, fishnet leggings and shawl with long tassels, bedazzled halfway down, that only she could pull off.
Shelton and Stefani began on their duet “Go Ahead and Break My Heart” and nearly 15,000 fans joined in changing their voices to meet the twang of their charismatic country leader any chance they could. Stefani only joined the concert for the single song before departing backstage but her and Shelton’s embrace and kiss at the end of the song seemed to re-energize the singer who continued strumming his guitar late into the evening. Shelton opened the concert with “Neon Light” as if he knew that those looking for their seats would be doing so only by the flashing red white and blue strobe of the classic Mid-State Fair boot mix drinks. He then played hits like “Doing What She Likes” and “Be Cooler if You Did” followed by “Mine Would Be You” and “Guy With a Girl” as he danced beneath the giant American flag swaying, almost in rhythm at times, above the stage.
Halfway through his set, Shelton set up a showdown between his fiddle player, a lady with immense talent and bright jade-colored cowboy booties and his lead guitarist that culminated into a unique and distinct mash-up of the two that one can only hear at a country music concert.
Toward the end of his set, Shelton kept the hits going even if they weren’t his reaching into his bag and pulling out George Strait’s “All My Exes Live in Texas” and a crowd full of people that have never been to the lone star state sung their hearts out.
As the show progressed, so did the collective blood alcohol level of everyone in attendance as the dancing began spilling into the aisles and any open space. Those that had loved ones held their partners tight and turned Shelton’s songs into duets while those looking for love pulled their beer just a little bit closer.
Shelton finished the show with his oldest No. 1 hit “Austin” and then his soon-to-be newest No. 1 song “God County.” Unlike the night before, Shelton left the crowd thoroughly rocked and sent the sold-out crowd into Jimmy’s Watering Hole thirsty for more country music and maybe someone with a twang to call their own.
The 2019 California Mid-State Fair runs July 17-28. For more information, check online www.midstatefair.com.