Luke Bryan Closes Rodeo With Superstar Swagger

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Luke Bryan NRG Stadium March 22, 2K15

Luke Bryan is an unlikely sex symbol.

Yes, he's a good-looking guy and he has a good voice and he writes songs that make girls in boots swoon and he has something that resembles the ability to dance, but the fact that he's so popular and so scream-worthy is just odd.

This is a guy who is making Drake money without any of the crossover appeal. A lot of people who listen to modern country music know who Drake is; I'm not sure the average modern hip-hop fan could pick Luke Bryan out of a lineup.

But he's managed to convert his big hooks and dad charm into an extremely successful career, one that leads to 75,000-plus (just barely) packing a stadium in hopes of hearing some good songs and to see him shake his thing. And they got that, and a little more.

Would you believe me if I told you the most superstar-worthy moment of the 2015 Houston rodeo happened during this show?

There's something to admire about the confidence that Bryan hits the stage with. He's gotten better as a performer in the past year, not in terms of stage moves or strength of singing, but in that intangible known as stage presence. He's still not larger-than-life, and that's still a good thing, but it feels like he's carrying himself just a little bit stronger, a little bit bigger.

If nothing else, you get why he's the reigning Country Music Association Awards Entertainer of the Year.

Have you ever looked up the criteria for Entertainer of the Year? It is as follows:

This award is for the act displaying the greatest competence in all aspects of the entertainment field. Voter should give consideration not only to recorded performance, but also to the in-person performance, staging, public acceptance, attitude, leadership, and overall contribution to the Country Music image.

Luckily they don't take off points for ability to dance or making too many purring noises into the mike.

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If Bryan were anyone else, it would be real easy to ding him for the things that make him look silly. His faux-hip-hop dance moves are just so odd. His singing bits of Jason Derulo and Taio Cruz instead of any number of other more interesting songs that are out there. That purring noise he kept making.

But there's something endearing about it that I can only really chalk up to dad charm. Of course, your slightly out-of-touch dad thinks Jason Derulo is the best. Never let him discover The Weeknd.

So while his level of popularity may be weird to outsiders, never make the mistake that Luke Bryan doesn't know what he's doing, especially when it's concert time. This dude has figured out how to put together a show that absolutely kills a crowd. This is a guy who at the peak of his most popular track stood inside a stadium, had all the stage lights killed and sang in the glow of multiple spotlights like a [radio edit] superstar.

Not even Ariana Grande had the guts to literally make herself the only point of focus in NRG Stadium.

Who needs crossover success when you have supreme confidence?

Personal Bias: I'm not sure that Bryan has ever put out a truly good album, but he's building a hell of a greatest-hits record.

The Crowd: I wouldn't say that I care, but can we talk about how the Rodeo sells tickets for a moment? Luke Bryan was the first artist to "sell out" their concert this year. Yet, checking the attendance listings, it seems that he has only 75,005 tickets to his name this year. That's weird, because it means he has outsold by Ariana Grande and Florida Georgia Line, among others. Just seems odd to me. For what it's worth, his crowd was significantly louder and more invested in his show than they were in the Brad Paisley show the night before, good as it was.

Overheard In the Crowd: "He needs a lot of help to hide from that many damn people," said someone walking back to their vehicle. I'm glad you care about your boy, but maybe don't talk drug-dealer business in public unless you're willing to do it on the speaker phone so we can get the other half of the conversation.

Random Notebook Dump: The calves were out for blood this year. Kids were getting trampled left and right during the calf scramble and it was [radio edit] awesome. Good to see the calves sticking up for themselves in the face of rampant tail pulling and attempted tackling. Mutton bustin' was an all-star show, with the previous winners coming back to compete against each other. There were so many scores in the lower 90s. It may actually be the best mutton bustin' combined performance I've ever seen.

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