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Don’t fence Dierks Bentley in before IC concert

BY RACHAEL LANDER | APRIL 23, 2009 7:29 AM

Those who would like an intimate encounter with Dierks Bentley need go no farther than the IMU; he will play his honky-tonk, bluegrass, and rock tunes for his eager country-loving fans tonight. The concert sold out a week after spring break, demonstrating that Iowa City is a prime location for Bentley fever. Those not lucky enough to grab tickets are free to creep around on Madison Street for a glimpse of his baby blue eyes, though sightings are not promised nor are they guaranteed.

He will perform in the IMU Main Lounge at 7:30 p.m. today, with 8 Seconds and Jedd Hughes opening.

Bentley is the first country star of this caliber that SCOPE has brought to the UI in years. Clark Bradshaw, SCOPE’s public-relations and marketing coordinator, said getting a country star was no accident.

“SCOPE is always working to make sure our music fits as diverse of a crowd of students as we can,” he said. “We hadn’t done a country artist for a while, so we decided to make that a priority.”

When the group realized it could get Bentley, Bradshaw said, it grabbed him, because he’s one of the country singers whom a lot of younger audiences really enjoy.

“He’s not too old, like some other country artists,” Bradshaw said. “He’s very contemporary. He has fun, catchy songs that are played on the radio. So with our college-age [constituents], they really connect with him.”

Bentley, a Phoenix native now living in Nashville, has been crossing lines in country music since he signed with Capitol Records Nashville in 2003. The honky-tonk man enjoys mixing a little bit of rock and roll with his otherwise country tunes. His fusion of genres fueled his rise, with numerous singles reaching No. 1 spot on the Billboard country charts, and many others cracking the top 10. His latest album, Feel That Fire, and its title track both jumped to No. 1 shortly after its February release.

Bentley has also won numerous awards, including taking home the Country Music Association’s Horizon Award in 2005, which is given to the performer “who has demonstrated the most significant creative growth and development in overall chart and sales activity, live-performance professionalism, and critical media recognition,” according to the association’s website.

In typical country-music fashion, Bentley makes his songs personal, using words to delve into the core feelings of his fans. He sings about life, love, travel, heartache, and a slew of other topics that resonate deeply with listeners. His ability to fuse his rocker persona with his bluegrass/honky-tonk side sets him apart from his Nashville brethren.

UI junior Lenny DeBroeck said Bentley’s song “Lot of Leavin’ Left To Do,” about his desire to keep traveling, is one that speaks to him.

“I don’t like to settle down too much,” DeBroeck said. “The song more or less says to be with [Bentley], you’ve got to enjoy the road, because he’s still got a lot left to do.”

DeBroeck also pointed out Bentley’s ability to get personal by having his wife and dogs appear in many of his videos, something not many big stars seem to do.

Fans also enjoy Bentley’s ability to use his performances to connect with his audience.
“I’ve been to four of his concerts, and he just tries to appeal to the crowd, and he’s really entertaining to watch on stage,” said Jordan Loperena, a UI student who plans on attending tonight’s concert. “He has put out pretty lengthy set lists at concerts, so you usually hear every song that you want to hear.”

Though Loperena has many favorite Bentley tunes — he’s been a fan since the country star’s début — two stand out for him. “What Was I Thinkin’,” a story about ignoring the repercussions of following desire, and “Free and Easy (Down the Road I Go),” a tune about traveling wherever your feet take you.

“ ‘What Was I Thinkin’,’ because it was kind of like his first really big song, and it had a great music video to it,” Loperena said. “You can kind of just relate to a crazy night like that. And ‘Free and Easy,’ because there’s a small set of lyrics in the song that I kind of take to heart.”

Loperena is most looking forward to the relatively small crowd that will be at the IMU tonight — the venue holds a maximum of 1,800 people.

“I think that it’s just going to be a really personal, great experience,” he said. “It’ll probably be one of the smaller crowds that he plays for a long time.”

Jedd Hughes, one of the openers, is an Australian guitar-playing singer/songwriter who has been engrossed with music since age 8. Despite not classifying himself as a country artist, he ended up moving to Nashville. There, Hughes met Bentley, and he has been playing shows with the country star ever since.

“I’ve been opening for Dierks for the past four or five years on and off,” Hughes said. “We’ve become pretty decent mates, and we kind of keep in touch a bit. I try to get out with him if I have time. I guess you start to develop relationships with people, and it sort of becomes an ongoing thing once in a while.”

Tonight’s concert will halt Bentley fans’ hearts for many reasons, including the intimate setting — a rare location for a concert from one of Nashville’s biggest acts.

“He’s really one of the top musicians in country music, which is a really big genre in America,” SCOPE’s Bradshaw said.


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