Though it's one of the largest concert venues in Utah, Rio Tinto Stadium has hosted only a handful of acts, including Paul McCartney, The Eagles and Neil Diamond. This Saturday, add country star Jason Aldean to the list when he brings his Night Train tour to Sandy.
Right now, there's no bigger name in country music.
Aldean, 36, sold out his two concerts in Fenway Park, and his performance last month at Madison Square Garden sold out in less than 10 minutes. He has filled the University of Georgia's football stadium with some 66,000 people and Chicago's historic Wrigley Field.
It's not the first time he's been in Utah. Aldean played in front of a capacity crowd at the Maverik Center in 2011. He recalls relaxing at an outdoor mall in downtown Salt Lake City the day of the performance.
"It's one of those things where you have certain places where you play and they stick in your mind because the reception you get is great," Aldean said.
Not many singers can perform in large venues with success. In the country world, Garth Brooks was able to do it, and so was George Strait.
Aldean wasn't intimidated. He said playing in stadiums was a goal for this year.
His spontaneous outbursts like stopping midsong and telling an audience member to put down the cellphone are one of the reasons he's able to fill the arena, he said. "I'll embarrass the hell out of them."
In 2006, Aldean opened for Rascal Flatts in a large arena. He wasn't as well-known then, and to gain fans, he tried to put on the biggest show possible even though he wasn't the headliner.
"I went out onstage like I'm Mick Jagger," he said. "For whatever reason, it worked. People probably looked at me like, 'Who the hell is this guy?' "
Aldean moved to Nashville in 1998 from Macon, Ga., when he was 21. After just a month, he was signed to a record label. He was dropped after a short time, but soon signed another deal with Capitol Records. In 2000, he was dropped again.
When he was thinking about going home and starting over, he was signed by Broken Bow Records, his current label.
If that hadn't happened, he said he may have tried his hand at another career. He thought about sports journalism, but still would have played at bars or any place he could perform.
"But I really didn't know," he said. "Everything I've done was all about the music business."
It was his fourth album in 2011, "My Kinda Party," that propelled Aldean into the mainstream and brought him all kinds of recognition.
His duet with Kelly Clarkson, "Don't You Wanna Stay," became his sixth No. 1 single on the Hot Country Songs list; his inspired cover of the rap song "Dirt Road Anthem" became one of the biggest-selling singles of the year, crossing genres; "My Kinda Party" was named Album of the Year during the CMA Awards in 2011; and Aldean was named Artist of the Year by the American Country Awards.
His most recent album released in October, "Night Train," topped the Billboard charts after its first week and is certified platinum. And Aldean was named Male Vocalist of the Year at the ACM Awards in April.
Just a few years ago, Aldean said he toured on one bus with a trailer hitched to the back and about 10 band members and staff. Today, the tour contains 19 buses and trucks and more than 100 band and crew members.
"It's a circus, it really is," he said. "The tour has been pretty huge so far. It's been cool to experience it. It's like a shot in the arm for me."
Opening acts • "It's really flattering to be in that company," said Jake Owen, Aldean's friend and opener, whose star power is also on the rise.
The 31-year-old is touring in support of his breakthrough third album, "Barefoot Blue Jean Night." A native of Vero Beach, Fla., Owen played a lot of golf as a youngster, and was on track to becoming a professional when a wakeboarding accident cut that dream short.
Owen also went to a lot of concerts. He said whenever he sings the line about lighters at a rock show, he thinks of his favorite concerts from the past: Hank Williams Jr., Dave Matthews and the Doobie Brothers.
"People just want to have a good time," Owen said. Singing about music gives people a nostalgic respect for the best times in life, and the future joys. "Shows are an exit from reality."
The country singer headlines this show. Jake Owen and Thomas Rhett open.
When • Saturday, July 27, 7:30 p.m.
Where • Rio Tinto Stadium, 9256 S. State St., Sandy
Tickets • $25-$60; riotintostadium.com