Luke Bryan Shakes Things Up at RodeoHouston, But Not Too Much

Luke Bryan put on a big, mainstream country RodeoHouston show.
Photo by Jack Gorman
Luke Bryan put on a big, mainstream country RodeoHouston show.
Luke Bryan
NRG Stadium
February 28, 2K19

Not to sound overly reductive, but being a RodeoHouston regular has always struck me as a pretty sweet gig. You show up, you play fewer songs than you would at a regular headlining gig, and you don't have to switch things up more than drop an old song or two for the new singles you released in the 12 months between rodeos. For this, you'll get a sweet paycheck and be able to say you played in front of 70,000 or so fans.

RodeoHouston performances have a certain level of predictability, which is why even the smallest variances can seem earthshaking in the moment. For years, Luke Bryan has closed his RodeoHouston shows with "Country Girl (Shake It For Me)", which no one complains about because part of the reason you go to see Luke Bryan is to watch him roll his hips while singing that particular song. So when he opened with it on Thursday night, it felt like we might be on the precipice of a whole new world, or at least perhaps a more mature Bryan.

This was not the case, and that's fine too, because as always Luke Bryan delivered another rock-solid RodeoHouston performance, not quite as great as last year's mid-week epic, but not his weakest performance either.

Almost all the hits were there (I for one missed "Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye" but if losing that means not having to hear "Drink a Beer" that's a fair trade off), including his current radio chart-topper "What Makes You Country." I'm not sure his newer tracks are quite as strong as his previous material — "What Makes You Country" is just a weaker version of "Huntin', Fishin', and Lovin' Every Day", which is already not the strongest of jams — but with "I Don't Want This Night to End" and "Play It Again" still hanging around in the sit there's still plenty to love.
click to enlarge Bryan and his band can rock when they want to. - PHOTO BY JACK GORMAN
Bryan and his band can rock when they want to.
Photo by Jack Gorman
But even if all the songs were awful, it would still be a worthwhile show as Bryan remains the gold standard of what a big, mainstream country RodeoHouston show should be, for all the good and bad that comes with it. He and his band can rock when they want to, keep it slow when they need to, and put on a relentless performance that had the crowd completely engaged from start to finish. He has his pulse on what the people want, even if he forgets the words to his own songs sometimes. But even in his mistakes, he puts smiles on faces; unpredictability comes in many forms, and Bryan knows how to roll with all of them.

Personal Bias: I am legally obligated to remind you that choosing "Crash My Party" as the first dance of your wedding will lead to the longest three minutes and 54 seconds of your life. (Love you, boo.)

The Crowd: The website says 67,115 paid, which is down a bit from his usual high, and less than what Brooks & Dunn pulled the night before. Read into that whatever you'd like.

Mutton Bustin' Update, Day 4: Have you noticed that they stop scoring the mutton-bustin' this year? I'm not happy with this call, as it makes picking the winner seem way more arbitrary; not that I'm saying there's a conspiracy to have certain kids win or anything, I just take strapping small children to sheep very seriously.

Random Notebook Dump: On the subject of RodeoHouston changes, I can't say I'm a fan of the new format of how they celebrate the animals this year. Sure, that speech about how "some horses are born to buck, some horses are born to run" did get a little tiresome the sixth time you heard it, but the presentation was great. This year just feels like a good idea lacking in execution.