Back in May, Entertainment Weekly magazine picked Luke Bryan’s “Crash My Party” as one of the summer’s 10 biggest albums. With sales of 527,783 units its first week out, it not only lived up to the billing but was the biggest sales debut for a country male artist since 2004.
And like the platinum-selling album, Bryan’s Dirt Road Diaries Tour has proved to be a hot one. Looks like it’s his year. You certainly wouldn’t get any argument from the sell-out crowd that packed Verizon Arena Thursday night to hear him and opening acts Florida Georgia Line and Thompson Square serve up what actually was a little bit of country and a whole lot of rock ’n’ roll in a rousing, good-time show.
Bryan, the reigning Academy of Country Music Entertainer of the Year, definitely delighted the screaming crowd of 14,909 as he plowed his way through hits like “Drunk on You,” “Rain Is a Good Thing,” “Someone Else Calling You Baby,” the power ballad “Crash My Party” and his most recent No. 1, “That’s My Kind of Night.”
Taking the stage around 9:30 with his trademark black baseball cap firmly in place (sometimes forward, sometimes backward), the country superstar kicked off his high-energy show with “Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye.” He performed for an hour and a half and along the way swigged what he said was moonshine and tossed cans of beer to fans from a big cooler on stage. He saved the always-popular “I Don’t Want This Night to End” for his encore and put the hammer down with his finale, “Country Girl (Shake It for Me),” one of his many songs that — along with his tight-fitting jeans and equally snug tee — drive women wild.
With Eric Church and Jason Aldean, Bryan won the ACM Vocal Event award earlier this year for “The Only Way I Know.” He sang that one by himself Thursday night, but had Florida Georgia Line back on stage with him for a great cover of Maroon 5’s “One More Night.” Thompson Square joined the lineup on Bruno Mars’ “Locked Out of Heaven.”
The guys of Florida Georgia Line started the evening off with a handful of the catchy tunes that have sent them to the top of the charts. The duo is composed of Brian Kelley, the more-or-less short-haired guy from Florida, and Tyler Hubbard, the longer-haired one from Georgia. Put them together and they’re a rocking twosome. Their six-song set, including “It’s Just What We Do,” “Round Here,” “Get Your Shine On” and “Cruise,” went by way too quickly. They played Riverfest earlier in the year, but look for these guys to be tour headliners the next time they come around.
Thompson Square — the husband-wife duo of Keifer and Shawna Thompson — proved popular with the audience on hits like “Here’s to Being Here,” the smash hit “Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not” (yeah, they kissed), the emotional ballad “Glass” and “If I Didn’t Have You.”