The hottest ticket of the Cruzan Amphitheatre’s Country Megaticket this year also proved to be the last of the series, with Luke Bryan packing them in Saturday.
The show sold out in one hour when tickets went on sale in July 19, and the secondary ticket market flourished, including those ticket-flippers who show up in the parking lot. (I asked one guy wanting tickets to name even one song by Bryan, and got the most quizzical look.)
Anyway, it also was the last night of Bryan’s 75-city Dirt Road Diaries tour, and he was determined to sprint to the finish for the crowd of 19,000. Bryan has been on fire, for those who don’t know, including holding the title of reigning ACM Entertainer of the Year.
“We’ll play all night,” he said. “Because we don’t have to do s--- tomorrow.”
That proved to be little more than bluster, though as he exactly matched the set list from other shows– save for one memorable extended sequence that clearly showed where Bryan is going.
And, to those who don’t know, it’s toward pop-rock. You could argue that Bryan’s hugely popular shows are the next in the chain that started with Garth Brooks, was elevated by Kenny Chesney now could be handed over to Bryan (as much as I like Chesney, it’s time for a new king).
Let’s see, his mid-show mashup included pieces of Steve Miller’s “Joker,” Sir Mix-a-Lot’s “Baby Got Back,” Bruno Mars’ “Locked Out of Heaven,” rapper Wiz Khalifa and Alabama’s “Song of the South.”
So Bryan is the more middle-of-the-road choice over his also-hot brethren of this generation, Jason Aldean and Eric Church, both of whom have a rougher edge to them. Bryan has nice white teeth, hops and pogos energetically and shakes his midsection and behind with such elan that should he ever perform those moves in a more adult place his jeans would be stuffed with dollar bills.
He played his hits, including his recent “That’s My Kind of Night,” which Zac Brown called “the worst song I’ve ever heard,” because Brown feels country is leaning too far toward commercial.
My favorites are “Rain is a Good Thing,” “All My Friends Say” and “Country Man,” though he also played “Do I?” “I Don’t Want This Night to End” and “Someone Else Calling You Baby.”
But Bryan also solidified his direction with an “Are you ready to rock and roll!” shout about three-quarters of the way through, then played parts of Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” and Taio Cruz’s “Dynamite.”
This being the last night, and country music tours having a growing expectation of final-night hijinks, it got a little silly. The Florida-Georgia Line singers both came out dressed like Bryan, and mocked him with pelvic moves, ballcap flips (Bryan habitually alternates his ballcap from backward to forward) and even Bryan’s move of ending a song with the pantomine baseball bat swing. Thompson Square’s duo changed clothes, with the she being the he, and the he being the he. Later, Bryan opened up a piano for a quieter vibe, only to fine three 2-foot baby alligators.
The show also was enhanced by opening Florida-Georgia Line, two men whose popularity has soared. Thompson Square followed, although the crowd response actually was dialed down, making them the horse-and-buggy between two locomotives. Singer Shawna Thompson confessed she was recovering from an illness that caused her to cancel Friday night’s show so maybe they get some slack there. (But do I really want to know if a perfomer is sick? That’s a tough call.)
All told, though, the Cruzan season, with the MegaTicket that included Tim McGraw, Rascal Flatts, Brad Paisley, Jason Aldean, Blake Shelton, Miranda Lambert and Keith Urban, came to a fitting close, on a crisp October night that can be about as fall-like as South Florida ever gets.
“We’ll see you all next year,” Bryan told the crowd before his finale, “Country Girl (Shake it for Me).” There’s no reason to believe he won’t.Copyright © 2015, South Florida