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Review: Brantley Gilbert Makes Country Rock on 2017 The Devil Don’t Sleep Tour

Midway through his 2017 The Devil Don’t Sleep Tour stop at Darien Lake Performing Arts Center on Sunday night (July 30), Brantley Gilbert turned down the volume, helped a fan pull off a marriage proposal and chatted with the crowd for a few minutes. As a traveling musician, Gilbert told them, he spends a lot of time away from home, and that can be tough (especially with a baby on the way); the fans, though, have always treated him like family, as though he was home no matter how far away from it he really ways.

“A thank you will never cut it,” Gilbert said, dedicating his current single, “The Ones That Like Me,” to those who have helped him find that home away from home. “This is for the folks who know there’s more to us than tattoos and chains.”

Gilbert’s 90-minute set is loud and rowdy, to be sure: The set-opening “It’s About to Get Dirty” is accompanied by fire and popping pyrotechnics. He closes his show, pre-encore, with the party-ready “The Weekend,” “Take It Outside,” “Kick It in the Sticks” and “Bottoms Up.” When Gilbert turns over the spotlight to them, his band pulls out some classic rock and metal guitar riffs. And those moments are plenty of fun, but some of the best moments of Gilbert’s set are the quieter ones that someone new to Gilbert’s music might not expect from a tough guy like him.

Gilbert’s hit “You Don’t Know Her Like I Do” is, on this tour, accompanied by photos of Gilbert and his wife Amber on the giant screens at the back of the stage. In some, they’re younger — Gilbert has only a little bit of scruff, as opposed to his more recognizable full beard — and he’s without his usual ballcap; others are pictures from their wedding day. “Outlaw in Me,” a The Devil Don’t Sleep album cut, spurred Gilbert to give thanks for the women, like his wife, who love the guys like him, and speak happily about his unborn son, who is due later this year.

The piece de resistance, though, might just be “One Hell of an Amen.” The recorded version of the song already has weight to it, as Gilbert sings about a soldier who dies fighting for his country and someone fighting cancer; live, Gilbert precedes the song with thanks for the military members in attendance and sends love to those affected by cancer, and he sings the song with stained-glass church windows displayed on the screens behind him.

If there were dry eyes in the crowd, they were few and far between. As the end-of-song cheers from the crowd died down, a “USA! USA! USA!” chant broke out, unaided by Gilbert or his band.

“There aren’t many times I’m speechless,” Gilbert told the audience, “… and that was one of ’em.”

Gilbert’s The Devil Don’t Sleep Tour is scheduled to run through late September. A complete list of upcoming stop is available on his website.

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