For four solid hours on Sunday night (Dec. 8), country music was alive and well in Chicago. The US99 Stars & Strings concert at the Allstate Arena brought together some of Nashville’s most engaging artists: Seaforth, Lindsay Ell, Scotty McCreery, Chris Janson and Kane Brown. And as you can imagine, every one of those artists brought something to the holiday party.
But if we had to pick the top three moments, it would be these:
1. Kane Brown Shakes Off the Rust
“We haven’t been on a stage like this in a couple months, so it feels good to be back up here,” Brown told the crowd after opening his headlining set, adding later that it felt like they were just shaking off the rust throughout his one-hour show. If he felt rusty, it didn’t show. Brown’s vocals never wavered, and his utility player Lars Thorson backed him with a modern take on traditional country. Thorson added some big fiddle swagger on “Baby Come Back to Me”, and some standout banjo breaks during “What Ifs” and “Weekend.”
2. Chris Janson Fixes a Drink for the Military
“I remove my hat for all our servicemen and women who may be here tonight. Thank you for your service. I mean that from my heart. I know that Christmastime is a tricky time of year especially for servicemen and women and their families. If you’ve got a drink tonight, the point is, let’s have a toast to our great country tonight,” Janson said as the intro to his “Fix a Drink.” Later on, he shared some more of his backstory, saying, “Country music is all I ever wanted to do, and it was all I’ve ever been decent at. I was raised in the middle of a cornfield and a soybean field in a single-wide trailer. I wrote this next song about the humble beginnings of where I come from,” he said of “White Trash.” Janson’s set included his own string of hits, in addition to songs he wrote for LOCASH (“I Love This Life”) and Tim McGraw (“Truck Yeah”).
3. Scotty McCreery Takes a Knee
At the beginning of McCreery’s set, he talked about how good 2019 has been for him. But he admitted that as much fun as he’s having on the road, he’s been having just as much fun back home. “Because about a year and a half ago, I became a married man. Me and my wife met when we were just five years old, on the first day of kindergarten. I had my eye on her for quite a while,” he said of his newlywed bliss. “We started dating in our senior year of high school, and we dated for about seven years. Then I knew it was time to pop the question. So I took her up to the mountains in North Carolina, out on a little cliff. It’s our favorite spot in world. I wanted to write a song just for her. A song I really never thought y’all would hear. She said yes. That song’s called ’This Is It,'” he said as he got down on one knee to kick off the ballad he wrote with h Frank Rogers and Aaron Eshuis.
You can see more pictures of the star-studded event here.