LOUISVILLE, Ky. — If all your friends say Luke Bryan is one of country music’s most entertaining singers, they’re right.
Bryan brought his Dirt Road Diaries tour to Louisville on Friday night (Feb. 22) and told the audience they were a part of the biggest country concert ever held at downtown’s KFC Yum! Center. Naturally, they roared. Then citing his sound-measuring equipment, he added that the crowd was also the loudest one so far on this tour. And even though I’m not familiar with that kind of equipment, it wouldn’t surprise me a bit.
Almost everything Bryan did at this show was greeted with applause, screaming, poster-waving and (yes) dancing. The biggest mover and shaker in the whole place was located about three rows ahead of me — and his name is Luke Bryan. My first page of notes reads something like this: “Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye.” Swiveling. Gyrating. “Country Man.” Thrusting. “Someone Else Calling Me Baby.” Wiggling.
Although he’s undoubtedly a social guy, Bryan doesn’t talk that much from the stage, other than a few sentences here and there. Instead, he relies on his ever-growing arsenal of hits to speak on his behalf. His production value is small compared to some other country headliners, but his personality easily fills the stage. And he shakes it for the country girls a heck of a lot.
Now, I’m used to seeing young women — and those who are generation older — when I go to country concerts. However, it was eye-opening to see how many children were running up to the stage, reaching up their tiny arms and posing for photos by the security railing. I think that’s because Bryan’s lyrics are simply written and the melodies stick in your head. Plus, a lot of his music is just plain fun.
Bryan reached into his Spring Break catalog for the upbeat “Suntan City” and also tried out a few album cuts, including “Dirt Road Diary” on piano. They were well-received, but when he jumped back into his hits, the crowd leapt back to their feet.
You can’t be too shocked that a guy known for singing “Rain Is a Good Thing” and “Drunk on You” is going to have alcohol handy. At one point, he took a sip from a jar of moonshine, then reached down into the crowd and poured out a guy’s beer — only to fill it up with moonshine. “Mmm, sweet apple pie!” Bryan said after taking another sip. (Good luck explaining that to the kids.)
Also, if you go to this show, be aware that Bryan might throw a full beer can into the audience shortly after cracking it open. The hurtled can missed me by about an inch. (I jumped out of the way.) The teen girl in front of me and the woman behind me both leaped into my seat and started fighting for it. Really.
Thompson Square ’s set was more docile. They offered new material like their current single “If I Didn’t Have You” and the title track to their upcoming album, It Just Feels Good. Their chemistry is undeniable, their smiles are infectious, and the new material is freshening up their set list for dedicated fans. Everybody still sings “Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not,” too.
For being a brand new act, Florida Georgia Line have somehow already tapped into the ability to keep a crowd on its feet without telling them to do it. When the duo asked, “Where are my party people?” it wasn’t hard to find them. Obviously energetic, these new “Cruise” stars hardly stayed in one place. And way before they stepped on the stage, people were getting their shine on.
With this tour, Luke Bryan has clearly gone to the next level, as the industry likes to say. Still, he raised some eyebrows a few weeks ago with a nomination for ACM entertainer of the year award. Add this enjoyable concert to the mounting evidence that he does belong on country’s A-list.