Ryan Johnson, Published February 28 2014
Luke Bryan brings the party to the Fargodome
With his blinding white teeth, tight jeans and signature hip swaying that elicited screams from the younger, more-female-than-male crowd, the 37-year-old son of a Georgia peanut farmer was right at home during his 90-minute headlining set here.
Bryan started the show with a big entrance, singing “That’s My Kind of Night” on top of a black pickup that rose up from a flaming circular front stage.
He kept the party vibe going strong throughout his set, and the nearly sold-out Fargodome crowd was ready for party anthem after party anthem about trucks, booze and the country lifestyle, at least according to Bryan.
Fargodome officials didn’t have a final attendance count as of press time, but the arena was set up to hold about 20,000 concertgoers and there weren’t many empty seats.
As perhaps the reigning leader of the so-called “bro country” genre, Bryan displayed the showmanship and arena-ready tunes that have won him devoted fans – and 11 Top 10 singles – since releasing his first album, 2007’s “I’ll Stay Me.”
The concert started with a 30-minute set by Cole Swindell, a fellow Georgia native who released his eponymous debut album on Feb. 18.
Swindell delivered an energetic set full of shredding electric guitars and driving drumbeats that got the crowd ready for the evening, whether it was “Brought to You by Beer,” radio hit “Chillin’ It” or “Hope You Get Lonely Tonight,” a song co-written by Florida Georgia Line.
Next up was Lee Brice, who stood out Friday with a set of songs that skewed toward a slower tempo than Swindell and Bryan. But his 11-song set, relying heavily on cuts from 2012’s “Hard 2 Love” and tracks from a forthcoming album, wasn’t totally out of character for the night.
“Friends We Won’t Forget” rehashed good memories with buddies, while no one seemed to mind when Brice said, “Let’s sing a song about beer, y’all,” before launching into the aptly titled tribute to brews, “Beer.”
Brice hit a high with his penultimate song, “I Drive Your Truck,” a slow ballad about the narrator’s way of dealing with his brother’s death that became a hit for the singer last year, and closed out his performance with “Parking Lot Party.”
Brice has a powerful, compelling voice live on the stage, though he also seems to have a nasty habit of simply speaking or (even worse) yelling the words to many of his songs, especially the louder or faster ones. Slower tunes, such as “A Woman Like You,” seemed better suited to his gritty voice, but the crowd didn’t seem to mind his handling of party songs.
Bryan’s set of 18 songs from across his career tended to be faster paced, though he did take a minute to sit alone on stage at a piano for the stripped down intro to “Do I.” He also slowed things down a bit toward the end of the show when he sang “Drink a Beer,” a tribute to late loved ones that has become a signature song for the artist.
But more often than not, the country hitmaker had the crowd singing along to arena-friendly tunes like “If You Ain’t Here to Party,” “All My Friends Say” and “Crash My Party,” and he even tried his hand at rapping during a cover of Macklemore’s “Can’t Hold Us.”
It’s unlikely that attendees left Friday’s concert pondering the meaning of the songs they had heard, especially because just about every song by all three musicians was about partying and good times.
But Bryan & Co.’s focus on fun certainly has its fans in the region – about 20,000 of them, from the looks of the packed Fargodome.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Ryan Johnson at (701) 241-5587