Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz
ARDY and Niko Moon both experienced major successes as songwriters. HARDY – he goes by his last name – has felt the magic of being number one 10 times, while Moon has had a series of hits as well for the likes of Zac Brown Band and Dierks Bentley.
But there's a big difference between being a songwriter and being a singer.
That was apparent at a packed 101.7 The Bull radio show, but no enough to dampen the entertaining sets of HARDY and Moon.
HARDY, in reality, didn't need to be a particularly compelling singer either. As. He commented towards the end of the one-hour show, the crowd knew the words to every song he played and wasn't afraid to sing out.
Perhaps more importantly, HARDY has a strong sense of self, which he made clear from the opening, new song, "Sold Out" to his closing singalong "Unapologetically Country As Hell."
In the former, which rocked hard (yeah, even though he was acoustic as both HARDY and Moon were solo acoustic), HARDY sings, "And my last name/Is a whole lot bigger than I thought it'd be/A lotta things changed/Except one thing, me."
On the most excellent "Unapologetically...," HARDY underscored his independent streak: "Sorry I ain't sorry 'bout the way that I am/I don't give a shit if you don't give a damn." Ditto for his hit, "Rednecker," where he isn't afraid to show his pride.
HARDY offered covers of his songs like "Sand in My Boots" (the way he wrote it, not the way it was recorded) and "More Than My Hometown," both hits for his close friend Morgan Wallen. Later, he would sing "God's Country," a big hit for Blake Shelton.
So, this is where the songwriter vs. the singer issue came into play. To put it bluntly, Wallen and Shelton are superior singers. Their voices are far more vibrant and at least at this point dig deeper than HARDY's, who doesn't have the resonance of the others.
And, unfortunately, HARDY also did snippets of these songs and a few others ("4X4" and "Where to Find Me"), not the full version, which would have been far more welcome.
Of course, it helped that HARDY has such songs in his repertoire period. And that made for an engaging, entertaining evening – even if he did presumably jokingly flip the bird to the enthusiastic crowd at song's end.
Moon made it perfectly clear where he was coming from the opening words of his song, "Sad Songs": "I don't want to hear no sad songs" and soon "I just want to have some fun tonight." That about sized up his ultra-short seven-song, 28-minute stint.
So with not much time, Moon made the most of it. He has a swampy quality to his sandpapery vocals along with soulful, hip-hop edges.
With good times abounding in the youthful crowd, Moon kept the emphasis on drinking ("Paradise to Me," which despite mentioning Willie and Hank would never have qualified as a country song when the genre was far tighter than it is today) and enjoying life. So, playing his new single, "Easy Tonight," was an obvious choice. The song sounds like something out of the Kenny Chesney playbook, mentioning "a drink in my hand" and "real good friends."
Yet, the best song was an ode to his father, "Without Saying a Word" ("he's still alive," probably having a Bud someplace, Moon made clear to one fan, who presumably wondered if he had passed away). The song is a series of aphorisms about how to live life. On a line-by-line basis, it was a bunch of truisms strewn together, but it also caused the listener to think about what they may have learned from their parents and hopefully doing better.
As for the songwriter/singer issue, Moon proved the point with "Gone." He's no Dierks Bentley when it came to delivery.
Moon was all about positivity, closing with his breakthrough, "Good Times," which he proudly said he wrote in his laundry room. Hey, whatever works.
As for "good times," HARDY and Moon provided plenty of them.