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Originally published February 12, 2012 at 12:40 PM | Page modified February 13, 2012 at 7:51 AM

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Concert review

Brad Paisley delivers a dazzling 'real life' show at Tacoma Dome

In what will probably be the biggest country show of the year, Brad Paisley, The Band Perry and Scotty McCreery delivered a dazzling show at the Tacoma Dome Saturday. Called The Virtual Reality Tour, it contrasted the reality of everyday life embodied by country music with the "virtual" reality of a Carrie Underwood hologram singing with Paisley. McCreery and The Band Perry could have held down the crowd on their own, they were that good.

Special to The Seattle Times

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Concert Review |

The Brad Paisley party people were out in force Saturday for the country star's big date with Tacoma.

Throngs of fans in cowboy hats swarmed the Tacoma Dome for the man chosen Entertainer of the Year at the CMA Awards in 2010.

Paisley, a West Virginia native, obliged with a powerful show packed with nearly two dozen songs, delivered with dazzling special effects, video and original animation that Paisley created himself.

The affable star has dubbed his current trek The Virtual Reality Tour, bringing The Band Perry, nominated for a Grammy, and 2011 American Idol winner Scotty McCreery along for the ride.

As Paisley explained, the "reality" of everyday American life is what country music is all about. The "virtual" part refers to the escapism his show provides. "Virtual" also referred to a clever special-effects stunt — a duet of "Remind Me," featuring Carrie Underwood in eerie holographic form, looking like a Technicolor ghost as she sang from the back of the stage. It was a slick re-enactment of the two stars' 2011 CMA Awards performance.

The soaring title song of Paisley's current album, "This Is Country Music." pays tribute to musical forebears Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, George Jones and others. In concert, the song was a flag-waving salute to homespun American music and values.

"So turn it on, turn it up and sing along," Paisley roared. "This is real, this is your life in a song."

A gifted songwriter, guitarist and entertainer (though unremarkable vocalist), Paisley delivered a devastating emotional punch with "Whiskey Lullaby," a tear-jerker, and elicited belly laughs with "Celebrity," a tune that poked fun at celebrities behaving badly.

McCreery joined Paisley for the latter song, which featured a cartoonish, tabloid-style video asking, "Is Scotty McCreery Brad's Love Child?"

"When you're a celebrity, it's adios reality," Paisley quipped.

McCreery's rich baritone brought squeals from female fans, especially during the song "The Trouble With Girls." "Water Tower Town" offered a vivid portrait of rural America.

Kimberly Perry led brothers Neil and Reid Perry through a high-energy set of bluegrass-inspired songs, among them "Postcards From Paris" and the recent single, "All Your Life."

McCreery and The Band Perry could have stood as a separate show in a smaller venue. They were that good.

Gene Stout: gene@genestout.com

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