Brantley Gilbert doesn’t do nuance.
The hard-rocking, sometimes-rapping country star brought his “Not Like Us” tour to Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre Friday night, and, for the most part, his 90-minute performance featured swaggering anthems full of familiar bro-country tropes: moonshine, four-wheelers, the names of favored musical forebears and stories of preparing to party, partying, and the aftermath of having partied.
It’s a limited palette that a singer with a limited vocal range has made the most of, cranking out chart-toppers like “Country Must Be Country Wide” and “Bottoms Up” and writing “Dirt Road Anthem” and “My Kinda Party,” which friends Colt Ford and Jason Aldean turned into hits.
All of those songs were featured in Gilbert’s set on Friday, as were still more party anthems: “Kick It in the Sticks,” “It’s About to Get Dirty,” “The Weekend” and others.
Melville had his white whale. For Gilbert, it’s that perfect party that’s just over the horizon, but close enough to talk about how completely off-the-chain it’s going to be.
Gilbert’s concert was essentially the fulfillment of that prophecy, bolstered by ’80s-rock power chords, occasional hip-hop rhythms and video-board displays of people getting sufficiently rowdy. The only twang to be heard was in the Georgia native’s gritty, gravelly voice.
Of late, Gilbert has been exploring the flip side of the bro persona: the tough guy with the tender heart. Midway through the show, he sang the acoustic ballad “Bad Boy,” a track from his forthcoming album, “Fire & Brimstone,” which is due Oct. 4. He said he wrote the song for his wife, who recently gave birth to their second child, and it’s proof that Gilbert can dig deeper than his more superficial material would indicate.
He dedicated “The Ones That Like Me” to a member of his crew who passed away unexpectedly before a concert (which was subsequently canceled) just a few weeks ago. He also dedicated “One Hell of an Amen” to the U.S. military as well as those battling cancer — those “fighting for their life or for their country.”
Gilbert was joined onstage by opening acts Michael Ray and Lindsay Ell for “Small Town Throwdown” and the recent single “What Happens in a Small Town,” respectively. “She ain’t just a pretty face,” Gilbert said of Ell. “She’s a grinder and a guitar slinger.”
“Blue on Black,” a Kenny Wayne Shepherd song on which Gilbert was paired in the studio with rockers Five Finger Death Punch for a charity single benefiting first responders, proved to be a hard-rock highlight late in the show.
But Gilbert reverted to type on the set-closing “Read Me My Rights,” in which a good ol’ boy gets locked up, but for all the right reasons. He encored with (what else?) another party anthem, “Bottoms Up.”
Michael Ray’s set featured hits “Kiss You in the Morning,” “Think a Little Less,” “Get to You” and “One That Got Away.” But he didn’t always put his own best foot forward. The two moments when Ray best connected with the crowd found him doing cover tunes: Coldplay’s “Fix You,” during which fans clicked on their cellphone flashlights; and Brooks & Dunn’s “Red Dirt Road,” which became a loud singalong.
Lindsay Ell’s brief performance proved that Gilbert didn’t sell her guitar-slinging skills short. Her songs, including “Wildfire,” “Criminal,” a new number, “Broken,” and even a cover of the R&B chestnut “I Don’t Need No Doctor” suggest the Ell may be better suited to genres other than country, but she seems equipped to conquer whatever she’s aiming at.
“Kick It in the Sticks”
“Hell on Wheels”
“Country Must Be Country Wide”
“It’s About to Get Dirty”
“The Ones That Like Me”
“You Don’t Know Her Like I Do”
“Small Town Throwdown”
“Not Like Us”
“My Kinda Party”
“What Happens in a Small Town”
“Dirt Road Anthem”
“One Hell of an Amen”
“Take It Outside”
“Blue on Black”
“Read Me My Rights”