When Scotty McCreery performed in front of a tiny audience at Carowinds Paladium last August, the country singer seemed to completely ignore the fact that his voice was echoing off the backs of more than 10,000 empty seats.
North Carolina rocker Chris Daughtry, meanwhile, took a slightly different approach during his outdoor concert on Thursday night, when he faced a very similar shortfall in ticket holders.
“They’re missing a party, don’t they know?” Daughtry said to the roughly 2,000 fans inside the 13,000-seat venue, referring to the thousands of folks waddling through the amusement park behind it. “Get the hell off of the roller coaster! The roller coaster sucks!” he screamed, mockingly. Then, with a grin: “Actually, I’m just kidding.”
Despite the thin crowd, Daughtry – the former “American Idol” finalist with the band that goes by his namesake – gave an energetic performance that showcased his loose sense of humor, his punchy vocal and guitar chops, and his affinity for North Carolina (he was born in northeastern North Carolina and currently lives in uptown Charlotte).
It wasn’t all perfect: He struggled early on to warm up his voice, especially during what former “Idol” judge Simon Cowell might have referred to as a “pitchy” rendition of “Feels Like Tonight”; and the sound guy was having fits because of brutal feedback that threatened to ruin one of Daughtry’s most beloved songs, “Over You.”
But Daughtry’s laid-back personality translated into an easy rapport with the crowd, and the singer seemed to revel in the fact that ticket sales weren’t as strong as they could have been. The jokes kept coming. “I love the fact that you guys can be that loud ... and yet so ... compact,” he said, with just the right amount of sarcasm.
And later – before launching into a surprisingly beautiful stripped-down version of “Witness,” off his 2013 album “Baptized” – he affectionately laid into park-goers again: “Is everyone in the park that’s on the roller coasters right now missing out?” he asked. “That’s RIGHT! They missed it. They missed it.”
In all, Daughtry did 13 songs in just shy of 90 minutes, with highlights including a guitar-heavy twist on Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight”; the country-tinged “Tennessee Line,” one of the best songs he’s ever recorded that not many people have heard; and the wistful “Home” (which he dedicated to servicemen and women).
One of the bigger cheers of the night came during the chorus of “Home,” when he sang “But these places and these faces are getting old” then quickly shouted “except for Charlotte, North Carolina, baby!”
In an interview with the Observer before the show, Daughtry revealed that a move from Charlotte to Los Angeles is imminent. We’ll miss him around here, and hope the next time he drops by to perform, there aren’t as many empty seats.
In Daughtry’s own words
On playing Carowinds: “I’m 15 minutes from here, so it’ll be nice to be able to go right back home after the show. But I love playing for my hometown. It’s always a fun thing, and you feel a little extra connection there.”
On whether he rode any rides before the concert: “Not today I didn’t. We literally just got here. I love roller coasters, but I try not to do them before a show because I’ll have no voice.”
On the state of rock and roll: “There’s a huge lack of guitars on the radio. Hot AC (adult contemporary) used to be bands like ourselves, Matchbox Twenty, Maroon 5, that sort of thing – and now it seems to be shifted closer to the pop, Top 40 market. So it doesn’t leave a lot of room for guitars. However, Fall Out Boy seems to be doing all right with it.”
On his favorite Charlotte restaurants: “I love BLT (Steak) ... I’m a big steak guy. I’ve been eating a lot at Blackfinn, too. My favorite pizza joint is Libretto’s. I’ve been to 5 Church, that’s excellent. But I’ve only been here a year, and a lot of it was spent on the road, so there’s still a lot of restaurants I haven’t tried .”
On why he’s planning to move his family from Charlotte to L.A.: “I’m having to spend a lot of time out there for doing records, and going back and forth for other meetings and things. I feel like I’m out there more than I’m not, so we’re just kind of thinking enough of the back and forth.”