Between his coaching gig on the NBC singing competition “The Voice” and his photos splashed across tabloids after his Texas wedding to fellow country star Miranda Lambert, there’s been no shortage of Blake Shelton lately. But the moment he strolled out Saturday night at the Maryland State Fair and roared the opening lines of the party song “All About Tonight,” one thing became clear: The place he really belongs is onstage with a guitar.
The lanky, charismatic crooner has been a mainstay in country music for the past decade. “I just wrapped up a show called ‘The Voice.’ . . . People think of me as a new artist. Most of y’all know I’ve been doing this a long time,” Shelton said, referring to viewers who think they’ve discovered an up-and-coming country act on the reality show.
It may explain why Shelton mostly stuck to his older, well-known hits during the 75-minute concert, such as the love song “Nobody but Me,” and the wry bad-day tune “Some Beach.” Shelton also threw in “Ol’ Red,” which not only has a truly stellar opening line — “Well I caught my wife with another man, and it cost me 99” — but tells the classic tale of a man who breaks out of jail with the help of a lovesick dog.
He went as far back as his first No. 1 song from 2001 — known to Shelton historians as part of the “mullet years” — with “Austin,” a star-crossed-lover tale whose main character is an answering machine. Shelton reassured the audience that if they didn’t know the words, he would happily transition into some Justin Bieber tunes — a suggestion that was met with loud booing.
Throughout a string of his chart-toppers from recent years (“Hillbilly Bone,” “She Wouldn’t Be Gone” and a cover of Michael Bublé’s “Home”), Shelton sprinkled in some newer material. This included his latest single, the heartfelt “God Gave Me You,” as well as the completely absurd but catchy “Honey Bee” and the double-entendre-filled “Hey.”
Also known for his adult beverage-centric Twitter account (sample tweet from Saturday: “Warning to the good concert going people of Maryland tonight . . . There WILL be drinking and chaos!!”), Shelton made sure to capitalize on the concept of good old-fashioned, alcohol-fueled fun. “Y’all know it’s against the law to do a country music concert without doing a drinking song,” he explained before “The More I Drink.”
It’s not surprising that mainstream television has snapped up Shelton — his one-liners serve him just as well trading barbs with fellow “Voice” coach Christina Aguilera as they do in a concert setting (“Rascal Flatts does this, so it’s gotta be cool,” he said as he instructed the crowd to wave one hand back and forth). But watching him joyfully gallop around the stage, especially during a cover of Wild Cherry’s “Play That Funky Music,” showed that he shouldn’t permanently trade the microphone for a reality TV camera anytime soon.