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John Lamb, Published August 03 2012

Jason Aldean sets the bar for WE Fest

Jason Aldean made the big jump from penultimate act in 2010 to headliner of the first day of this year’s WE Fest.

He’ll be a tough act to follow.

The 35-year-old star followed friend Luke Bryan’s lead for a mostly energetic, entertaining. I say mostly, because about five songs in, the singer/guitarist had to chide some in the VIP section for sitting.

“This ain’t a movie. This ain’t a restaurant. You need to get up and grab a beer and (stuff) and get crazy,” he said.

To lead by example, he launched in to “Crazy Town.”

“Now I feel like I’m at WE Fest,” he said approving of crowd reaction after the song.

In the crowd’s defense, after starting strong with the raucous “Johnny Cash,” and the more melodious “Big Green Tractor” and “Amarillo Sky,” the singer settled into some mellower tunes with “Why” and “The Truth.”

No matter. He kept up the party pace with his latest single, “Take a Little Ride” and “Fly Over States,” which got a big cheer when he played to the locals and ad-libbed “Meet a girl from Minnesota.”

Aldean only slowed down once more, for the ballad “Don’t You Wanna Stay,” with his duet partner Kelly Clarkson appearing on the jumbotron, her voice recorded.

Instead, his live collaboration was with country rapper Colt Ford for “Dirt Road Anthem,” which Ford and Brantley Gilbert wrote, but Aldean popularized. Hearing and seeing Aldean and Ford do the song together, Aldean may own the stage, but Ford still owns the song.

Aldean showed his hip-hop chops again when he covered Kid Rock’s “Cowboy,” which he performed with Rock in 2010.

That, sandwiched between “She’s Country” and his signature closer, “Hicktown,” showed Aldean was ready for the headlining slot as he worked the stage, hanging into the crowd and even signing cowboy hats.

He’s country.