Chris Young at Reliant Stadium, 3/8/2014
Chris Young Reliant Stadium March 8, 2014
Folks, you should be saving water by drinkin' beer. According to Chris Young, anyway.
The twangy country singer gave that exact advice to an official paid crowd of 68,890 Saturday night at RodeoHouston. And judging by his hour-long set list, it does seem that he knows his way around a cooler of beer or two.
We didn't immediately recognize Young's name when the rodeo lineup was first announced, and perhaps for good reason; Young is in relative infancy as far as his music career goes. His claim to fame -- winning the 4th season of Nashville Star in 2006 -- has helped to launch him further into the spotlight, but he's got a bit further to go when it comes to name recognition.
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Not that he's undeserving of big-name status, though. From the moment he took the stage, following some sweet mutton bustin' where an itty-bitty girl kicked some serious sheep tail, Young was all vocals. All good vocals.
Young appeared onstage with little fanfare, in relative contrast to most of the rodeo's veteran acts. There was no chatter and no stage banter; just his vocals ringing throughout the venue. And what vocals they are. From the opening song, it was pretty easy to tell why Young won the 2006 round of Nashville Star; the dude can sing.
His voice is crystal-clear despite the Southern drawl, and he's so easygoing and unpretentious that it's impossible not to find him endearing. He could easily be a neighbor, strumming away on his guitar at the neighborhood barbecue, content as he hums about beers and coolers on the back of a truck.
Young's no-frills style is reminiscent of the some of the more old-school country artists, relying more on a decent sound than stage antics. His lack of skin-tight jeans and flirty mannerisms is refreshing. He's just a dude with a serious twang and a serious voice playing some music onstage for his 66,000 friends. It's clear that he loves to sing, but being onstage seems like a tiny part of the gig for him.
What wasn't as clear, at least from our perspective, was why this guy isn't more recognizable. Perhaps Young is just taking the rise to superstardom at his own pace. He seems to have the necessary components to be a big-name country act; songs like "Text Me Texas" and "Tomorrow" are simple and honest, but catchy enough to be bigger radio hits. And to his credit, he even managed to pull off a ZZ Top tribute in honor of the bearded veterans. We wanted to hate it, but couldn't.
So we're not sure if Young's beer-water conservation plan will take off or not, but if he keeps up that laid-back country-boy vibe, his career will. That voice, that style and his love of beer coolers may be just what bro-heavy country music needs.
Personal Bias: Way sick of bro-country, bros.
The Crowd: Oh, your typical rodeo folks. Everyone and everyone, although the crowd seemed a bit slim for a Saturday night. Lots of empty seats.
Overheard In the Crowd: "I can't get through, mama! There are people everywhere!" -- indeed, you couldn't get through anywhere, except maybe the seats. Everything else was a madhouse.
Random Notebook Dump: I wish more country musicians would take a clue from this dude. Bling jeans are not the one, guys.
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