If you saw Blake Shelton on the street in his gray button-down shirt and jeans, sweating a bit as he walks uphill, you might not think he’s one of the biggest stars in country music, with tens of millions of singles sold, every major country-music award won and the title of “sexiest man alive” under his belt.
When Shelton took the stage at the Tacoma Dome on Friday night and confided less than two songs into his set, “I don’t know if y’all know how hard it is to keep calm and cool in front of thousands of people,” the picture starts to develop.
Shelton, who brought his Friends and Heroes tour to Tacoma on Valentine’s Day, looks and acts like your fun, tattooed uncle asking for a beer and the TV clicker. As his show carried into its third hour, the feeling of “dang, I know and like another Blake Shelton song?” didn’t fade. You can’t help but hum along.
And you don’t have to be “country” to have a good time at a Blake Shelton show. You just have to toast when he raises his “BS”-emblazoned cup.
Opener Lauren Alaina warmed up the cowboy-hat-clad crowd with songs like “Ladies in the ’90s” and “Getting Good,” which she dedicated to her late stepdad. The highlight was when she invited a fan onstage for closer “Road Less Traveled.” The young girl, rocking a pink trucker hat and matching flannel, beamed as she shadowed Alaina, toting her “my first country concert” sign and a drumstick across the stage.
Alaina left with a suggestion: “I don’t know if y’all noticed, but you’re at a country concert, so get on your feet.”
The crowd didn’t need to be told twice. Shelton was next, opening with “Neon Light.” He played two songs before the audience caught its breath; Shelton said it was going to be a long night.
And yeah, it was long — but it was a blast.
Shelton had a slew of hits and few misses. There was his duet with partner Gwen Stefani, “Nobody But You,” in which Shelton turned around to face the giant projection of Stefani for each chorus. It was bizarre, but it was also Valentine’s Day, so whatever.
Country heroes John Anderson, the Bellamy Brothers and Trace Adkins ascended onto the stage from below when Shelton needed a break, keeping the show rolling. The old guard rejoined Shelton toward the end of the night, acoustic guitars in hand, seeming like a group of old friends strumming and joking with each other.
After each of them played, Shelton fanboyed over them. He seemed earnestly thrilled to share the stage with the gruff voices he grew up listening to, driving his truck down a dirt road in Oklahoma, images of which flashed as Shelton played his latest country chart-topper, 2019’s “God’s Country.”
Truly, it’s hard not to like the guy.
“It’s not like when Luke Bryan asks you to sing along with him. He’s doing it because he forgot the words,” Shelton joked about his fellow country star. “I’m doing it because it’s fun. It’s wholesome.”
Shelton wound it down with his 2001 breakout single “Austin,” thanked the crowd and shouted “I love you, Washington!” The lights dimmed and Shelton played “God Gave Me You” as his encore, prompting one last mass slow dance.
There weren’t quite as many cowboy hats as at a proper country show, but for a night, Shelton took Tacoma south, into God’s country. As the Times’ resident Southerner but not a country-music listener, even I must admit: Blake Shelton knows how to show folks a great time.