Critic’s review of Blake Shelton at the Patriot Center


Grammy-nominated artist Blake Shelton performs at the Patriot Center in Fairfax, Va., on Feb. 25. Shelton also appears as a judge on the NBC show “The Voice,” which just began its second season. (Kyle Gustafson/FTWP)
February 26, 2012

Since landing a gig as vocal coach on the reality-TV singing competition “The Voice,” an even-more-famous Blake Shelton suspects many young fans think he’s some kind of newbie.

“I am very insecure about my place in country music lately,” Shelton, 35, joked Saturday night at the Patriot Center.

He seemed reassured when, seated on a stool for a quiet acoustic rendering of his breakthrough hit “Austin,” it became clear the audience could’ve sung it for him.

Shelton is a robust, Oklahoma-born baritone. Against a backdrop of three tower silos, he talked up his affinities for drinking and deer-hunting. He slung swampy-blues (George Jones’s “Ol’ Red”) and redneck bravado (“Kiss My Country Ass,” “Hillbilly Bone”) with ease and authenticity.

Yet he’s equally at ease outside the confines of traditional country. Shelton opened Saturday’s set with a frisky “Footloose,” the beloved title song of the recently remade film. He delivered slick adult-contemporary fare such as “Don’t Make Me,” “She Wouldn’t Be Gone” and “God Gave Me You,” plus the easy-listening love ballad “Home,” which he’d recorded with wife Miranda Lambert.

With “Some Beach,” Shelton launched an incursion into the Kenny Chesney-dominated turf of neo-Buffet leisure music.

Pushing further: Shelton welcomed to the stage a barefooted and pirouetting Dia Frampton, one of his “Voice” proteges, for the dramatic devotion-pledging duet “I Will.”

And even further: He paid tribute to “Voice” co-coach Cee Lo Green with a rendition of “Forget You.” Midway through, though, Shelton cut the song short — it was high time to return to roots. An appropriately honky-tonk “The More I Drink” followed.

Shelton probably shouldn’t be nervous about where he stands in country music’s pecking order. If anything, he seems to have outgrown the coop.

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