Despite his years-long insistence that rain is a good thing (sing it with me now: “Rain makes corn, corn makes whiskey/Whiskey makes my baby feel a little frisky”), a late-day storm threatened bad news for fans of country-music star Luke Bryan on Thursday night at PNC Music Pavilion.
At 5:35 p.m., as torrential downpours soaked the area, promoter Live Nation used Twitter to inform fans that the venue was not opening on schedule; over the next hour, event staff turned ticketholders away and told them to remain in their vehicles until further notice.
Ninety looong minutes later, the deluge started to subside and gatekeepers started to scan tickets, though everyone’s set times – including kickoff man Dustin Lynch, setup band Little Big Town and headliner Bryan – were pushed back by an hour.
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Needless to say, the near-sellout crowd was in for a night that would make the alarm clock sound far more annoying than usual. But with the reigning CMA Entertainer of the Year at the controls, fans had to figure the loss of an hour of shut-eye would be worth it.
And they were right, though they had to take a little light ribbing from Bryan on the road to satisfaction.
“There’s something going on with y’all’s damn weather system,” the newly minted 40-year-old said during a break seven songs into his set, around 10:40 p.m. “I mean, this s--- isn’t even no tropical storm, this is just like a (regular old) storm. The damn tropical storm ain’t even here.”
He was grinning, but he also had to be wondering what Mother Nature has against him coming to Charlotte – it’s the third straight year his fans have had to wear ponchos over their plaid shirts.
“I mean, my damn Twitter, Instagram – y’all be mad as hell at me. Y’all like, ‘You said rain is a good thing.’ (But) you know what happened tonight? Y’all just got to drink longer is what happened tonight,” he said, laughing, before adding: “Me, too!”
He accentuated the point not just with bro-country hit “Drunk on You” and deceptively poignant ballad “Drink a Beer,” but also by joining Little Big Town members Karen Fairchild, Kimberly Roads Schlapman, Phillips Sweet and Jimi Westbrook for a round of shots poured from a bottle of Patron that may or may not have actually contained tequila. (“It tastes a little funny,” Bryan said. “I think someone put moonshine in here. We got North Carolina moonshine!”)
This posturing followed a Bryan-LBT cover of Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud” that morphed into a Bryan-LBT cover of Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On,” which teed up Bryan and Dustin Lynch’s duet of “Play Something Country” – a rollicking rendition made even rollicking-er by the pair cracking open and taking swigs from several cold cans of Miller Lite that they then passed into the pit.
And being the life of the party has always been Bryan’s strength, with or without wingmen/wingwomen, and with or without a can of beer or a shot of tequila/moonshine in his hand.
He’ll gyrate his tight-jeans-wearing hips during the funky “Kick the Dust Up,” toss the mic around like he’s Tom Cruise in “Cocktail” during the party-starting “This Is How We Roll” (his collaboration with Florida Georgia Line), and even take to twerking when he sings “Move,” one of the catchiest songs he’s ever helped write.
There certainly were missteps, such as:
▪ I think Bryan tends to overplay his hand when his band falls away – on “Play It Again,” he sang the chorus a cappella over and over and eventually ended up off-key.
▪ I think he’s an average guitar player, and I think his core fans would rather he throw his hips around a little more than throw a guitar over his shoulder.
▪ I think there’s no good reason to add a verse and a chorus of Taio Cruz’s “Dynamite” to Bryan’s great-on-its-own hit “I Don’t Want This Night to End.”
But his successes far outweigh his failures, and the key to the night’s success, for me, is his stick-to-it-iveness. His refusal to be a fair-weather performer. He knows you can’t be the life of the party unless there’s a party to begin with. Ultimately, he knows that if you commit to a show, you commit.
It’s a fact: PNC Music Pavilion has to adhere to a strict 11 p.m. curfew; and it’s a fact: Bryan’s concert on Thursday night ended at 11:57. So, this too is likely a fact: The tour had to foot the fine for breaking curfew.
Was it worth it? I can’t answer for Bryan, who most likely is facing a fine in the thousands of dollars. But from a fan perspective, the answer is absolutely, positively YES.
Luke Bryan’s Setlist
1. Rain Is a Good Thing
2. Kick the Dust Up
3. I See You
4. This Is How We Roll (Florida Georgia Line cover)
5. Drunk on You
6. Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye
8. Crash My Party
9. Play It Again
10. Roller Coaster
11. Strip It Down
12. Home Alone Tonight (with Karen Fairchild)
13. Thinking Out Loud/Let’s Get It On (with Little Big Town)
14. Play Something Country (Brooks & Dunn cover) (with Dustin Lynch)
15. Huntin’, Fishin’ And Lovin’ Every Day
16. Drink a Beer
17. Mountain Music (Alabama cover)
18. That’s My Kind of Night
19. I Don’t Want This Night to End / Dynamite
20. Country Girl (Shake It for Me)