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Jason Aldean brings the heat to WE Fest

Jason Aldean sings a song during his main stage performance at WE Fest Thursday night in Detroit Lakes, Minn. Brian Basham/DL Newspapers

DETROIT LAKES, Minn. ­– “Burnin’ it Down” is the title of Jason Aldean’s new single from his unnamed, forthcoming album. It’s also the name of the tour that brought him to WE Fest to headline the first night, Thursday.

It also nearly describes what he did to the stage.

The singer took to the stage with flames shooting high and so many flashpots going off it likely startled many in the crowd.

Earlier in the day, WE Fest CMO John Gourley said all of the headlining acts were bringing their full stadium shows to the festival, giving fans the complete experience.

Aldean left nothing off the table. The singer opened his set with the explosive “Hicktown” and ended it with an equally incendiary “Crazy Town.”

Where Aldean’s tour mates, Florida Georgia Line, are intent on explaining who they are by what they do (“It’z Just what We Do,”  “This is How We Roll,” and “(That’s how we do it) ‘Round Here”), Aldean likes to tell you where he’s been, like, “Tattoos on this Town,” underneath an “Amarillo Sky” or driving through “Flyover States.” He used the latter to namecheck “Minnesota girls” and got a big response from the crowd.

Aldean may play to some traditional country themes, but he’s solidly in the contemporary country camp. While the music is often borderline hard rock (“Johnny Cash” rocks harder than the Man in Black ever did) Aldean’s delivery is often inspired by hip-hop (“1994”), or just flat-out rapid-fire rap (the now ubiquitous, “Dirt Road Anthem”).

So it was a bit of a surprise to hear the new single, “Burnin’ it Down,” which Florida Georgia Line co-wrote. By the title alone you’d think it would be another rowdy number, but above a drum track and textured guitars, Aldean delivers a pretty poppy dance song.

Introducing the new tune, Aldean called it “Baby-makin’ music,” but it seemed like a good opportunity for fans to go get another beer.

Wisely, Aldean sandwiched the new tune between two rap-inspired rave-ups, “The Only Way I Know” (with Florida Georgia Line in street clothes coming out to swap lines) and “Dirt Road Anthem,” both of which drew much more favorable responses.

Which isn’t to say Aldean can’t do pop. He showed off his vocal pipes in the great Kelly Clarkson duet, “Don’t You Wanna Stay,” with the “American Idol” appearing on large video screens in a recording. And he doesn’t just stick to the power ballads. “The Truth” is a quieter mid-tempo song he effectively delivered. (The tune was written by Ashley Monroe who put on her own impressive show earlier in the day.)

Ultimately Aldean is still best off as the boisterous cowboy kicking up dirt, so it was only fitting he dedicated his encore, “She’s Country,” to his cowgirls in the crowd, before he left the stage amid another barrage of pyro.

“Burnin’ it Down” may not burn up the charts, but Aldean’s live show burned itself into fans’ memories.

IF YOU GO                 

What: WE Fest

When: Today and Saturday

Where: Soo Pass Ranch, Detroit Lakes, Minn.


Today’s lineup

2 p.m. – Gates open

2:45 – Maiden Dixie

4:15 – Chris Janson

6:15 – Randy Houser

8:30 – The Band Perry

10:45 – Brad Paisley

12:30 a.m. – Chris Janson (Barn Stage)