Replete with narratives about drinking beer on the front porch and heading out to do some “huntin’ and fishin’,” country singer-guitarist Luke Bryan’s music seems tailor-made for summer.
So it was fitting, then, that Bryan had perfect weather for last night’s concert before a near-capacity crowd at Progressive Field.
Playing on the same stage from which Billy Joel delivered a marathon concert the night before (something that wasn’t lost on Bryan, who quipped “I’m no Billy Joel” at one point during the nearly two-hour concert), Bryan showed why he’s one of country’s biggest stars as he appealed to his fan base by favoring his hits and adroitly shifting from party anthems to ballads and covers.
The concert literally began with a bang as fireworks erupted and the band emerged from behind a giant black curtain that dropped to the floor as Bryan and Co. launched into “Move,” a hit from 2015’s Kill the Lights
. Bryan practically rapped his way through his tune as he sauntered from the main concert stage to a catwalk that extended into a pit that extended nearly to the park’s infield.
Wearing tight-fitting blue jeans, a black T-shirt and his signature black baseball cap, Bryan evocatively swiveled his hips during the tune, which made references to dancing to the “throwback tunes” that the DJ plays. Bryan kept the energy level high for “That’s My Kind of Night” and “Kick the Dust Up,” a track that began with a menacing whisper that would become a roar thanks to some pre-recorded backing vocals that made the song resonate even more.
Distorted guitars erupted in “This is How We Roll,” a song that concluded with Bryan pretending to take and make a jump shot at its conclusion. The loud drums and snarling guitars in “I See You” made the song sound so much like an arena rock tune from the ‘80s that it could’ve passed as a Def Leppard power ballad.
Bryan took things down a notch for “Fast,” a tune that he capably began and concluded without the accompaniment of the band. While “Do I” came off as a saccharine pop ballad with its soft backing vocals and Hallmark sentiments, Bryan got back on track with “Drunk on You,” a tune that allowed him to show off his remarkable vocal range as he sang a few lines a cappella with a soulful delivery that suggested he could sing gospel music if he wanted.
Toward the end of the show, a piano rose up from underneath the stage and Bryan and his band performed a stripped down set at the edge of the catwalk, covering Alabama’s “Mountain Music,” Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” and Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Funk” in the process. That segment of the show displayed Bryan’s musical range and suggested what a showman he truly is as he truly went for it with “Sweet Caroline,” his rich baritone making him sound more like Elvis than Neil.
Clearly enjoying the festive atmosphere, Bryan brought Ohio State University football coach Urban Meyer out to lead the crowd in a cheer and regularly held up and read the signs that fans had brought to the show. He even tried on a pair of aviator sunglasses that one fan gave him. He downed shots of Patrón and opened up a cooler of beer to toss cans of Miller Lite to fans (presumably of drinking age) in the front rows. All the while, he never missed a note or forgot a line to one of the twentysomething songs he played. Impressive.
Opener Brett Eldredge successfully won the audience over with his 45-minute set that featured hits such as “Superhero” and the poppy “Love Someone,” a tune the benefited from the exuberant “uh-huhs” in its chorus. Eldredge even played a tender ballad from his forthcoming self-titled album that’s not due out until next month. His spot-on cover of Train’s “Drops of Jupiter” showed off his sharp pop sensibilities.
Up-and-coming country singer Lauren Alaina began the night with a 30-minute set that displayed her ability to churn out radio-friendly tunes and concluded with the rousing anthem “The Road Less Traveled.”