Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz
ane Brown couldn't have been used to playing small crowds like this anymore. Nor his fellow artists - Michael Ray, Russell Dickerson, Chris Lane and Gabby Barrett. In fact, Dickerson and Lane are opening up shows for Brown on his current arena tour.
So, this was a different night - a good, old-fashioned guitar pull show where the artists were sitting on stools (though the lanky Dickerson seemed more content to stand), sometimes telling a story about the song they were about to play and doing it acoustic (for the most part - Brown did have a very low-key electric guitarist) and often having fellow musicians helping out on music or vocals.
The result was a free-flowing night of music from the five along with one very special guest near the end.
Without a doubt, the highlight was a seemingly impromptu group effort on Garth Brooks' "Friends in Low Places," with Ray leading the charge. Different artists contributed vocals with Brown getting into the groove, but not singing along. Yet, the upbeat energy was palpable during and after the song.
With each artist having a chance to perform four songs over the course of the 110-minute show, Brown made the most of his time. He, like others, tended to play a few of his hits. The deep-voiced Brown was surprisingly the most overtly country sounding artist with a dose of fiddle and guitar work.
Brown closed with his hit "The What Ifs," well done, even if Lauren Alaina wasn't in the house.
While he was clearly the star power among all on stage, he didn't act like it and was the only artist to hang afterwards to sign autographs and take selfies with the fans.
As for the best pure singer onstage, that was obviously Barrett. She belted out her songs, including her current single, "I Hope," drawing praise from her fellow artists. Not bad for the former American Idol contestant, who was only turning 20 the next day.
Lane was a last minute substitute for rising country singer Ingrid Andress, who was dealing with the aftermath of a tornado that damaged her building in Nashville earlier this week.
Lane, a bit soulful and in good spirits, took the same approach as the others - meaning he played his hits like "Fix," the bouncy "Take Home Girl" and "Big Big Plans," the song he wrote and sang for his proposal to his now wife.
Dickerson roughly covered the same musical turf as Lane with hits like the sing-along (well, a lot of the songs easily drew in the crowd as backing vocalists) "Blue Tacoma," the poppy "Every Little Thing" and the brand new (just released on Monday) single "Love You Like I Used To."
Ray particularly shined on "One That Got Away" with its radio friendly sounds. And like Dickerson and Lane, he displayed his soulful side on his first single and hit, "Kiss You in the Morning."
As for the surprise, that would be one Kelsea Ballerini, who claimed to be in the area, knew the show was happening and wanted to participate in her favorite city.
With a new self-titled disc but two weeks away, Ballerini played her new single, "Homecoming Queen." The song has some lyrical bite to it with the idea of accepting the fact that not everything in life is going to be perfect - even for a homecoming queen.
Chances were not everything was on this night either. That's okay because the show from local radio station WKLB was a different kind of night for artist and fan alike and a most welcome one at that.