After more than a week of 100-plus-degree temperatures in Middle Tennessee, fans were happy to dance in the rain Sunday night (July 8) as Gary Allan closed out the final show of the 2012 Country Throwdown tour at the Woods Amphitheater in Nashville.
The concert had to be shut down a half-hour early as thunderstorms approached and a downpour broke out in the middle of Allan’s set, but after a full day of eclectic country performers, no one minded the refreshing cooler weather.
“Bring me my acoustic guitar,” Allan demanded as he made the announcement that only one more song would be played. “I want to do ‘Songs About Rain.’ That seems like the right one.”
The rowdiest cheer of the night went up with that as some fans scattered for cover and the heartiest of them all moved forward to press against the soaking-wet stage.
Allan says the Throwdown tour has been an event unlike most as it brings three separate stages on the road and a host of interesting entertainers for a mini-festival feel.
“Usually you’ve got one stage and a couple of big acts,” said Allan in an interview with CMT.com before the show. “On this, you’ve got three stages, and these guys just picked [performers] they liked.”
He went on to praise the artists on the tour, saying each was an especially strong performer — something the Throwdown prides itself on.
The original lineup boasted Allan, Rodney Atkins, Justin Moore, Josh Thompson, Corey Smith and Sunny Sweeney along with a boatload of up-and-coming artists on side stages. But since this was the last stop, only Allan, Smith and Sweeney remained for the headliner’s stage.
“It was a very different approach,” Allan said. “The result is it was a lot of fun. There’s a lot of camaraderie and a lot of interaction. There’s a barbecue every night, and it just seems like everybody’s out partying with each other.”
That party atmosphere extended into the crowd as Allan took the stage just after dark. With lightning flashing in the distance, the scene was perfect for his moody California country style.
Arriving to the sounds of a helicopter over the speaker system, Allan appeared onstage dressed in tight jeans and a brown leather jacket to the opening strains of “Watching Airplanes” and immediately began pacing the stage and slapping hands with fans in the front row.
The jacket was soon torn off to the delight of the ladies in attendance, and Allan moved into a passionate rendition of “Man of Me.”
He soon settled down into a slow burning pace and delivered an hour-long set filled with hits like “Nothin’ on but the Radio,” “Man to Man” and “She’s So California.”
“This is my home show now,” Allan remarked from the stage. “I think I know more people here than in California” he said, adding that it just means he has more friends to disappoint when he doesn’t have time to get together on short trips like this.
“It Would Be You” and “A Feeling Like That” followed in a frenzy of strobe lights and steel guitar before Allan brought the crowd to an emotional peak with a touching version of “Best I Ever Had.”
Without prompting, the audience broke into song at the end, singing the entire last chorus as Allan looked on in amazement.
As the rain started to fall, he sat down cross-legged in the center of the stage and delivered the fitting “Life Ain’t Always Beautiful.” At first, it was only a sprinkle and most of the crowd just doubled down on refreshments. But by the end of the song, the skies had opened up in a full, drenching rain.
Crew members hustled to cover amplifiers as some of the audience left for their cars, but Allan stood firm and reassured those determined to stick it out.
“Looks like we’re gonna get a little wet together,” he teased amid a round of catcalls. “I like it.”
He offered up “Like It’s a Bad Thing” and “Runaway” with no sign of easing from the rain, and within 15 minutes, the entire seating area had turned into a slippery, sloped mud pit.
“Learning How to Bend” became the last song before concert officials gave Allan the word that he had to stop because of concerns about lightning and high winds. The rain didn’t seem to be much of a bother for this crowd.
It was a good call, though, since no sooner did cars start leaving the parking lot than the real storm hit, throwing sheets of water sideways through the night amid bright flashes of electricity overhead.
It was a fitting end to such an electrically-charged tour.
Earlier in the day, Sweeney delighted the still-relatively-dry crowd with toasts to cold American beer and classic-sounding cheating songs. “From a Table Away” and “Staying’s Worse Than Leaving” were standouts for the sweet Texan.
Smith, a Georgia boy, followed in the early evening with a fun-loving set that showed off his roots as a mainstay around the college bar scene. His believable songs about frat antics, baseball games and booze riled the crowd up, especially his popular hit, “Twenty-One.”
The Bluebird stage gave up-and-coming songwriters Rose Falcon, Carly Pearce, Jonathan Singleton and Channing Wilson the opportunity to share their craft in a guitar-pull setting where the participants sat onstage together and took turns singing their original material. They were also afforded a few songs on the main stage in between sets, as was Mama’s Blue Dress, a likeable all-female string band quartet.
With a job well done and the tour over, there was only one thing left to do for the performers. As Allan said with a smile before the show, “I’m gonna get hammered with my friends!”