It may seem a little presumptuous for a music star to issue a greatest-hits CD after recording only three albums in five years. To be sure, Dierks Bentley has had his share of country hits. But, quite frankly, something's missing from his recently issued "Greatest Hits: Every Mile a Memory 2003-2008."
Bentley's greatest hit is his live act. He may not have enough hit-power or momentum to fill an arena, but on Monday, he proved to 8,258 people at the State Fair grandstand that he is one of country's most entertaining performers.
The only country act to play at this year's rock-and-rap Lollapalooza festival in Chicago, Bentley, 32, is a natural onstage. He's loose and limber, animated and energetic, fun and physical. At the grandstand, he carried on like a honky-tonk hero trying to make the leap to the big stage. But his only real concession to big-stage show business were 78 fluorescent-like tubes that lit up in different colors throughout the 90-minute set.
Bentley is the kind of guy who spontaneously jumps into the pit in front of the stage to high-five guys and dance with women. Of course, he did his usual planned bit by bringing a young woman onstage to slow-dance with him on "Come a Little Closer," his seductive ballad. He really knows how to work a crowd.
The curly-haired hitmaker from Arizona likes to put drive in his country. He opened with the hard-charging "Lot of Leavin' Left to Do" but showed his versatility with the moody, Garth Brooks-like "Settle for a Slow Down" and the honky-tonk barroom fave "Domestic, Light and Cold."
Still, there weren't enough great songs to warrant a "greatest hits" package at this point of Bentley's career. But he was great at selling a song, with his easy, distinctive baritone and friendly, enthusiastic and energetic delivery.
Opening the concert was Miranda Lambert, 24, whose "Crazy Ex Girlfriend" was the best country album of 2007. If she was a pistol in her headlining show in February at Mystic Lake Casino, she fired blanks at first on Monday. "Y'all are a little bit quiet for my taste," the Texan drawled half-way through her hour. "I'm sorry."
The audience perked up and so did Lambert, who partied on with the Roger Miller-like "Dry Town," the explosive "Gunpowder and Lead," Rod Stewart's rollicking "Stay with Me" and the incendiary "Kerosene."
For set lists and fan comments, go to www.startribune.com/poplife. Jon Bream • 612-673-1719