Music fans at the Taste of Chicago on Sunday enjoyed heaping helpings of country-rock, southern soul, and bluegrass served by Dierks Bentley. Though he’s no five-star chef, the high-wired entertainer mixed the perfect ingredients for a show that the audience ate right up.

Bentley bounded onto the Petrillo Band Shell stage with “Cold Cans,” chanting words that many in attendance agreed upon: “gotta have some cold beer with my country music.” In his white t-shirt, ripped jeans, and backwards baseball cap, Bentley engaged the crowd instantly with limitless energy.

With the temperatures blazing, he kicked up the heat another notch with “Feel That Fire.” The only relief from the scorching afternoon was an ice-cold refreshment, and according to Bentley, “beer always tastes better on Sundays.”

The party rolled on with “Am I the Only One” as Dierks quickly discovered there were plenty people out there who wanted to have a cold beer and kick it ‘til the morning light.

After strapping on an electric guitar for “Lot of Leavin’ Left to Do,” he fired everyone up with his current hit “5-1-5-0.” From the front row to the back of the lawn, those four numbers echoed loud enough to put a ringing in your ears. The noise level increased when he added the line “I’m going crazy lookin’ out at all you cute country Chicago ladies.”

Bentley then transported the attendees from the middle of the city to the open country in the fiddle-laden “Up On The Ridge” and “The Woods.” Though he couldn’t physically pile everyone in the back of his truck and head out to the back roads, the performance left the tall buildings looking more like towering trees.

Dierks’ love for Chicago was obvious throughout the set. While introducing “Free and Easy (Down the Road I Go),” he reminisced about participating in the motorcycle ride benefit “Miles and Music for Kids” with Ramblin’ Ray. He even customized a lyric in “Come A Little Closer,” singing “I feel like layin’ you down in Chitown.” His genuine adoration for the city gave fans just another reason to admire him.

In an ode to his early years full of gigs at places like Joe’s Bar on Weed Street, Bentley cleared his band from the stage to sit alone with his acoustic guitar. He passionately performed “My Last Name” in remembrance of his father who passed away just six weeks ago. You can watch Dierks’ heartfelt Father’s Day tribute from the Grand Ole Opry stage:

The slowdown didn’t last long, however. The band returned to quicken the pace again with “How Am I Doin’” and “Sideways.” Bentley displayed an ability to easily transition from the party-themed tunes to sentimental songs when he followed with “Home.” He honored the troops with his latest album’s emotional title track, sending waves of pride through the crowd.

He wrapped up the 70-minute set with “What Was I Thinkin’.” The show began with the audience rocking and ended in the same manner.

Dierks Bentley and the city of Chicago know how to throw a party. The Taste of Chicago provided the area’s best food while Bentley’s show left fans with a delicious taste of country music.

Review by Kelly O’Brien, Summer 2012 Marketing/Promotions Department Intern at US99.5, and a journalism major at Bradley University.

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