Worley Headlines Fan Fair’s First Night

As if his No. 1 hit “Have You Forgotten?” didn’t make the point, Darryl Worley wants his audience to know he supports the troops.

“I don’t care which side of the fence you’re on; if you’re not pro-military, you need to find another place to live or suit up,” Worley declared during Fan Fair’s Thursday night (June 5) concert in Nashville. Shortly after that remark, he launched into “Have You Forgotten?” — a flag-waving anthem that has become his signature — and that powerfully concluded the official first night of entertainment.

Last year at this time, Worley was just beginning to register with audiences with his future No. 1, “I Miss My Friend.” He capped his set by holding up a platinum plaque for the album Have You Forgotten?, certifying shipments of a million copies.

You did it! You did it!” Worley shouted to his fans, thanking them after the presentation. “There’s no way we would have ever accomplished this without y’all and the United States military,” he said, later adding, “God bless y’all. I don’t know what the hell I’m supposed to say.”

Halfway through his 10-song set, he introduced “Opportunity of a Lifetime,” by joking, “If this ain’t a hit, I ain’t wearin’ drawers.”

In the summer tradition, Worley has also cut his hair. Gone is the cowlick-like curl in the front, replaced by a Marines-like crew cut — short on the top and very short in the back.

Just before Worley’s set, Terri Clark clanged the cowbell to “Poor Poor Pitiful Me” and recalled her days of sitting in the Fan Fair audience, dreaming of the day she’d be the one to perform. And watching her entertain with so much gusto, you really do get the feeling that she’s living her dream.

Mark Wills dug into his catalog for a few older hits (“Don’t Laugh at Me”) as well as newer ones (“19 Somethin'”).

Earlier, Jessica Andrews encouraged — actually, begged — the crowd to sing along with “Who I Am.” (Her mother and grandmother were in the audience.) After delivering the fast version of “There’s More to Me Than You” and a “Who I Am” rip-off called “Sunshine and Love,” she brought out her boyfriend Marcel for the duet “I Won’t Hold You Down.” Indeed, she may not hold us down, but she may kill us with sentiment. It was like the “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers” of the new millennium!

All indications point to a long career for Joe Nichols, whose five-song set proved he’s come a long way since singing about a Wal-Mart parking lot. Fellow newcomer Steve Azar (“I Don’t Have to Be Me ’Til Monday”) hasn’t had the same success, but he did have Mini Me (aka Verne Troyer) joining him on the congas.

Blending the old and the new, Vince Gill looked nothing but cool and casual in shades, a baseball jersey and a backwards ball cap during his six-song set. If only Sawyer Brown had aged so gracefully. It’s unlikely anyone has jumped and gyrated so much in the course of seven songs as lead singer Mark Miller. By the way, listen for a new single from the veteran band in a few weeks. I think it’s called “I’ll Be Around,” but the sound quality early in the show muffled most of the band’s lyrics.

And if there’s a flag, a microphone and a country audience, then Lee Greenwood can’t be far behind. He offered a reading of — you guessed it — “God Bless the U.S.A.” It was a fitting beginning for a night that ended with the year’s most patriotic hit.