This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Provo • The Stadium of Fire was a night dedicated to God and country Saturday at LaVell Edwards Stadium, and, by God, did country dominate.
Country music, that is.
Country singer Brad Paisley proved to be the perfect headliner to cap the well-run America's Freedom Festival's signature event, and Utah country group Artie Hemphill and the Iron Horse Band won the first Stadium of Fire Talent Search, determined by the crowd's vote after the final three competitors (whittled down from more than 400 entries) performed on stage in front of the near-capacity crowd of about 47,000 spectators.
Because the patriotic night focused somewhat around the bullets that have defended America during this country's wars, here are some bulleted points about the warm evening:
• Paisley, with his traditional white hat and shirt emblazoned by a red, white and blue Superman logo, was an inspired choice as headliner. His 10-song set was dominated by songs that shared humor with proud-to-be-American themes, including "This Is Country Music," "Old Alabama," and, of course, the fitting anthem "American Saturday Night." Absent, though, was his ode to liquor, "Alcohol." Not a surprise.
• David Archuleta, the Utah recording artist and former "American Idol" finalist, opened for Paisley with a five-song, 20-minute set that included "The Other Side of Down," "Crush," and "My Country 'Tis of Thee." Wearing a red, white and blue-colored plaid shirt and flanked by eight dancers during part of his set, he was in fine form with his soulful vocals. At one point, he told the crowd, "It's hot out here," but because of the family-friendly vibe, chose not to start riffing lines from Nelly's "Hot in Herre."
• On a side note, whoever programmed the music before the concert should recognize that Bryan Adams' "Summer of '69" song is not family-friendly. And why did the night's prelude to its impressive fireworks focus on a definitely-not-family-friendly Katy Perry?
• Artie Hemphill and the Iron Horse Band won the crowd's support with their Bakersfield Sound-inspired "Working Man Blues." Brigham Young University pop-rock band The Whits performed "Give Me Back My Heart," and 11-year-old Eve Asplund wowed the crowd with an especially odd choice of song, "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going," popularized by Jennifer Hudson in the film "Dreamgirls." While far from age-appropriate, the song demonstrated that she needs to let Piers Morgan assess her awesome chops on "America's Got Talent."
• While the night was more about flag-waving than team rivalries, one of the evening's sponsors, Ryan Smith of tech company Qualtrics, told the crowd that although his company's official colors included red, he instructed his staff to wear blue shirts at the show in support of the Cougars. And besides being hosted by former BYU football star Chad Lewis, the night also included the BYU basketball team being honored for its recent successful season. And no, Jimmer Fredette was not present, but he did speak via satellite.
• A crisis was thankfully averted when four skydivers from Skydive Utah narrowly missed knocking over some of the 720 Stadium of Fire dancers.
• One of the show's sponsors, radio station 97.1 ZHT, had its host tell some jokes before the evening began. One of the funnier ones referred to the fact that you may be in Utah when more people are at the Stadium of Fire to see Archuleta than Paisley. But really, the night belonged to Artie Hemphill, his band and Brad Paisley on a great American Saturday Night.