Blake Shelton at Rogers Place on Friday night

Gwen Stefani made an appearance for some power-couple duets before the elder statesman of the genre closed out the night with a bag of old hits

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Blake Shelton sternly laid down the rules for the audience at his sold-out Rogers Place show Friday night.

“We’re here to celebrate country music and drink,” the singer proclaimed, before noting he wasn’t going to accept any public urination or vomiting in the aisles. Politics as well, which in the world of country music is the equivalent of public urination, depending on who you ask. From the number of people staggering up and down the steps of the arena, beer in hand, Shelton’s admonition was being taken very seriously.

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And why not? Now an elder statesman in the genre, Shelton may not be popping out-of-the-park home runs in album sales anymore but he’s still selling out big venues like Rogers with precisely calibrated redneck anthems like the opener, Come Back as a Country Boy. If you don’t know much about Shelton the title alone should clue you in as to what you could expect, but here are a few more title hints from the evening: Hillbilly Bone, The More I Drink, Boys ‘Round Here. Traditional country flavoured with a dash of the bro variety, a little pop for fizz appeal. That’s what more than two decades mucking around in Nashville and keeping up with the kids gets you.

Shelton knows his audience likes high-quality, unabashed corn, and he happily provides it like the consummate pro/good old boy he is. There were shout-outs to Hank (Hell Yeah) and the almighty, a Bublé cover and hymns to domestic bliss (Doin’ What She Likes). I’ll Name the Dogs was like a country music encapsulation of those Hallmark Christmas movies where the high-priced big-city lawyer woman falls for the aw-shucks small-town boy.

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Blake Shelton
Blake Shelton performs at Rogers Place during his Back to the Honky Tonk tour, in Edmonton Friday March 8, 2024. Photo by David Bloom /Postmedia

Speaking of domestic bliss and Hallmark clichés, the worst kept secret in the world was revealed halfway through the set when wife Gwen Stefani sauntered out to sing along to Nobody But You. If the audience was already shouting themselves hoarse to Shelton they brought it up several notches when Stefani appeared. Edmontonians, like people the world over, surely love celebrity couples.

The former No Doubt singer stayed out for two more songs, the couple’s 2020 hit Happy Anywhere and their most recent duet, Purple Irises. Thus ended the power-couple quotient of the evening, which left Shelton playfully wondering how he could possibly top it. Why, with a bag full of old hits, of course, including the loping Jimmy Buffett homage Some Beach.

Shelton keeps fairly close to the parameters of what we expect from country music, but it felt like middle act Dustin Lynch had learned from the internet and applied the intense use of SEO keywords to the genre. Tequila was a popular one, appearing on both Tequila on a Boat and Honky Tonk Heartbreaker. Also, beer, of course; he and his bandmates even constructed a beer hat for a lucky member of the audience to wear. His Chevy truck got a namecheck in not only Stars Like Confetti but also the song Chevrolet, in which he lifted the entire melody and song structure from Dobie Gray’s Drift Away and wore it like the skin of a vanquished enemy.

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Blake Shelton
Blake Shelton performs at Rogers Place during his Back to the Honky Tonk tour, in Edmonton Friday March 8, 2024. Photo by David Bloom /Postmedia

It was beautiful in the same way the area around Chernobyl post-nuclear devastation can be classified as beautiful, but it also raises serious, important questions. Like, why hasn’t Luke Bryant lifted John Lennon’s Imagine and retitled it Budweiser? Which Nashville artist will up their creative game and untangle Suzanne Vega’s sombre Luka in order to turn it into a celebration of Levi’s jeans? It’s all sitting there for anyone to pick up, I won’t even ask for a credit.

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REVIEW

Blake Shelton with Dustin Lynch, Emily Ann Roberts

When Friday night

Where Rogers Place

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Maria Lewis

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