Many of today’s top acts, whether they play hip-hop, country, rock or pop, bring enormous, elaborate shows along with them to arenas and outdoor amphitheaters.
Singer-songwriter Luke Combs, however, chooses to let his music stand on his own. Last night, he didn’t need much in terms of production to enthrall the sold-out crowd at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. Playing in front a very minimal backdrop that included a circular video screen that showed everything from shots of the band performing live to old family photos, Combs let his working-class anthems speak for themselves.
You can see a slideshow of photos from the concert here
With his scruffy beard and thick arms, Combs, who’s built like a linebacker, looks like more like a guy who’d fix your car than someone who’d front a successful country music act, but he had no trouble commanding the stage for 90 minutes last night.
Combs and his terrific seven-piece band came out fast and furious at the set’s start. They ploughed through “Honky Tonk Highway,” “When It Rains It Pours” and “Must’ve Never Met You” with abandon, playing them at such a fast-tempo, it made you think they were trying to get through the show before some kind of curfew set in. After delivering “1,2 Many” and “Refrigerator Door,” the band simmered down for “Houston, We Got a Problem,” a song Combs said he wrote about missing his fiancé after he went to Texas for the first time, and “One Number Away.” “I never imagined I’d be doing anything remotely close to what is happening right now,” he told the audience in one of many moments when the humble singer endeared himself to the crowd.
The band then left the stage to Combs and his acoustic guitar. Without any accompaniment, he played stripped down renditions of “Dear Today” and “This One’s For You.” The band returned deliver a medley that featured “The Ride,” “I’m Gonna Be Somebody” and “Fortunate Son” while Combs approached each band member and introduced the audience to him. He even let two of his guitarists and his keyboard player handle lead vocals for a moment.
“Angels Working Overtime” featured a beefy guitar riff that made it sound like a classic Southern rock tune, and Combs introduced “She’s Got the Best of Me” as “the first good song I ever wrote.” A bit of barroom piano kicked off “What You See Is What You Get,” the title track from his latest album, and “Beautiful Crazy,” a song Combs said he wrote for his fiancé before they even started dating, came off as a beautiful ballad that showed off the tender side of Combs’ husky voice. It recently won the Country Music Association award for Song of the Year, something Combs referenced while thanking his bandmate that co-wrote it with him.
The band then cranked up the guitars again for “Every Little Bit Helps” and delivered a slew of rowdy drinking songs (“Beer Can,” “Don’t Tempt Me” and “Beer Never Broke My Heart”) that really resonated with the hard-drinking, flannel-shirt wearing crowd. “Did you all have a good time tonight?” Combs asked toward the end of “Don’t Tempt Me.” When fans greeted his question with deafening applause, his gigantic grin suggested just how much he loved the crowd’s enthusiasm.
Opener Morgan Wallen, a singer-songwriter who appeared on Season 6 of The Voice
, took a rock ’n’ roll approach to his performance. He blasted a smoke machine at the start of his set, and he regularly encouraged the audience to “get rowdy.” A ZZ Top-like guitar riff kicked off “Happy Hour,” one of the 40-minute set’s highlights. And the rousing “Whiskey Glasses” came off well too during the polished performance.
Singer-songwriter Jameson Rodgers started the night off with solid 30-minute set that showed off his sharp songwriting skills. The guy has written tracks for the likes of Florida Georgia Line, and he performed with real ease last night, delivering songs such as the catchy, pop-leaning “Some Girls” with the kind of confidence that suggested his days as an opening act might be numbered.
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