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Bryan stands on his (considerable) merits

Wiltern Theatre, Los Angeles, October 18, 2022

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

A Zach Bryan concert is a phenomenon. Up until now, about the only events where you might find audiences singing along loudly with every song played or performed, might be a Christian worship show or a British football game. Bryan's shows are closer to that European soccer analogy because these are mainly male voices vocalizing. Ironically, these are the same males that likely don't sing during worship time in church. Yet, at a Bryan show, guys in trucker caps and cowboy hats sang at the top of their lungs. Bryan songs are smart and nuanced and not at all the simplistic anthems most often played during sporting events. These fellas have great taste, at least. That's for sure.

Unlike another Bryan, Luke Bryan, Zach doesn't kowtow to pop or bro-country. Instead, his songs are decidedly traditional, and he has a fiddle player play into most of his arrangements. On "Quittin' time" and others, Bryan was supported by a banjoist. This was a primary instrument on the tune, not just there for cute coloring. Bryan brought along a large band, too, with eight different players.

Mainstream radio listeners may not know this Bryan's name, but they ought to. His is a passionate audience, which filled the Wiltern with a line winding around the block before showtime. He was welcomed like a hero. He is respected for his art, not for his sex appeal (as with Luke). This is not to say he may not come off sexy to some in the audience. However, he came out wearing a simple red t-shirt and jeans combination.

He doesn't dance. He doesn't run all over the stage, like Garth Brooks. No, he lets his memorable songs, such as "God Speed" and "Something in the Orange," stand on their own merits.

Charles Wesley Godwin, another favorite among the Zach Bryan crowd, opened the night with a strong set of (also traditional) country songs. In addition to fine originals, exemplified by the propulsive "Lyin' Low," Godwin sang the traditional "Roll In My Sweet Baby's Arms" and was joined by Bryan for an audience sing-along on John Denver's "Take Me Home, Country Roads."

Good things are happening on mainstream country radio these days, but equally noteworthy scenes are developing just below the mainstream's surface, too. Zach Bryan and Charles Wesley Godwin may just represent the future of mainstream country music. Whether either (or both) attain big time commercial success, though, they each have already formed unbreakable bonds with their respective audiences, a fact impossible to deny tonight.



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