Luke Bryan has won Country Music Association’s Entertainer of the Year twice since his first album was released in 2007. If you happened to witness his performance at Progressive Field on Saturday night, you would understand why he’s gotten those accolades.
I am a rocker at heart, and though I’ve seen some traditional country acts such as Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson and Tanya Tucker in my career; this was my first foray into “new” country music.
Mr. Bryan did not disappoint.
This show was very similar to the hard rock shows that I attended in the ‘80s, not musically speaking but visually. There were fireworks, lasers, pyro and great lighting; all of which adds to a great concert experience. Not only that, but Bryan’s good-natured personality really connects with his audience and he also surrounds himself with great musicians.
Dressed in tight blue jeans, black t-shirt and baseball cap, Bryan opened the show with “Move” from his 2015 release Kill the Lights.
The aforementioned light show was, for the most part, unnecessary because Bryan spent most of his time prowling the giant T-shaped catwalks that stretched across most of the outfield grass. Fans didn’t seem to mind as they would rather watch Luke “shake it” for them up close, and personal.
He did stay center stage for “Fast” as he strummed an acoustic guitar and changed the lyrics to “the kind of boys you want on the Buckeyes. Fast.” Then asked rhetorically “Do we have and Buckeye fans here?” After a huge roar, he continued the song.
Speaking of Buckeyes, Urban Meyer made an appearance on stage and did an O-H-I-O and said “Go Tribe!” Before leaving, Bryan quipped “Coach has some nice legs!”
The entire band joined Bryan in the middle of the catwalk as a piano was raised from underneath. This was the portion of the show where Bryan played some of his favorite cover songs. The first song was Alabama’s “Mountain Music,” the second was “Sweet Caroline” by Neil Diamond and the third was the Bruno Mars pop hit “Uptown Funk.”
After “Strip It Down,” Bryan took center stage again and played a solo acoustic version of “Drink A Beer.” At the end of the song he asked for all the lights to be turned off and he was going to re-sing the song as people made a toast to those friends that they may have lost. Although the lights might have been turned off, Progressive Field was lit up with cell phone lights, creating a cool effect.
The show ended with one of his most popular hits “(Country Girl) Shake It For Me” and indeed, Progressive Field was shaking.
I can see why so many Clevelanders come back each year to hear Luke Bryan play it again.
Brett Eldredge was second on the bill and played six of his Top Ten hits including “Don’t Ya,” “Beat of the Music” and “Mean to Me.” He got the crowd warmed up by toasting them with his blue Solo cup on several occasions. Surprisingly, he threw in snip-its of a two cover tunes: “Drops of Jupiter” and “Gold Digger.” Eldredge closed his set with another Top Ten hit, “Lose My Mind.”
American Idol runner-up Lauren Alaina opened the show with a spirited set of her original tunes. On her third song, “My Next Boyfriend,” Alaina chose a young man to dance with her on stage. They both showed off their moves including the “whip and nae nae,” “the stanky leg” and even “the robot!”
This twenty-two year old has a great stage presence, personality and voice that country fans should be hearing from for years to come.