Country star Brantley Gilbert is about as subtle as a Mack truck in 10th gear.
"We're fixin' to get rowdy," he roared after emerging onstage at Target Center on Friday on a stationary Harley-Davidson.
After the second selection, he demanded, "Where my rednecks at?"
Then after pronouncing himself "as country as hell," Gilbert explained that he liked to fish. But he'd never gone ice fishing.
"I didn't understand the concept," he admitted. "I didn't know why you didn't wait till you fish regular."
But Friday afternoon he went ice fishing on Lake Minnetonka and, with all due respect to Prince, purified himself redneck style.
That was probably one of the few times on Friday when the brash and boisterous Gilbert dialed it down.
For 100 minutes on Friday, he tore it up at Target Center like no one had told him — or his 8,000 raucous fans — that bro-country is passe.
The small-town Georgia native brought his pickup-truckful of songs about bass fishin' and skinny dippin', cowboys and hillbillies, Waylon and Willie, Friday night bleachers and Sunday morning pews.
By mixing bro-country and small-town sensibilities with a hip-hop vocal delivery and arena-rock guitars and drums, Gilbert, 35, made it clear that his kinda party is pregame, game-on and after-party. It's Lynyrd Skynyrd and Hank Williams Jr., both of whose songs he covered Friday. It's a cranked up Jason Aldean, who turned Gilbert's songs "My Kinda Party" and "Dirt Road Anthem" into country smashes, both of which Gilbert delivered in Minneapolis. It's AC/DC for rednecks.
What gives Gilbert his edge — if he has one — is his distinctively gritty voice, which sounds like he gargles with gravel and then has to mix throat lozenges with his whiskey.
That voice may be an asset, but it's also a liability. Nuance isn't his strong suit.
Midshow, Gilbert offered a two-song, sit-down acoustic set that he promised wouldn't last long. The ballad "Bad Boy" gave him an opportunity to talk about how his wife and fatherhood (a 2-year-old and a 4-month-old) have changed him.
And "Modern Day Prodigal Son" gave him a chance to sit on that Harley, the first bike he bought back in 1999, with his acoustic guitar, celebrating his favorite — and first — song.
Then Gilbert played his best tune of the night, "Simple Man," the Skynyrd classic.
Backed by his five-man, guitar-heavy band, Gilbert played all five of his No. 1 country hits, including last year's hackneyed "What Happens in a Small Town" (with duet partner Lindsay Ell appearing on a video screen) and 2011's celebrative "Country Must Be Country Wide."
The Gilbert songs that stood out, though, were when he found texture and shading: the acoustic-turned-thundering "Blue on Black," which Gilbert recorded with the metal band Five Fingers Death Punch, Queen's Brian May and the song's writer, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, and especially the encore of "Bottoms Up," which paired acoustic guitar with a hip-hop vocals, reminiscent of Everlast, the 1990s singer.
Although he's not quite ready to headline in an arena, Gilbert trotted out various arena cliches, including flamethrowers and confetti; opening acts (the forgettable Brandon Lay and Dylan Scott) joining him for a fiery song ("Small Town Throwdown"), and saluting the military (and folks who battle cancer) with "One Hell of an Amen," followed by one of the electric guitarists playing ""The Star-Spangled Banner."
Gilbert left no subtlety on the red dirt road to Lake Minnetonka.