Even on an Off Night, Luke Bryan Is the King of RodeoHouston

Even on an Off Night, Luke Bryan Is the King of RodeoHouston
Photo courtesy of Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo
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Luke Bryan
NRG Stadium
March 16, 2017

There is little doubt as to who the current King of the Rodeo is. At this point, you might as well just call Luke Bryan the 75 Grand Man, as he’s packed in that many fans for the last five years in a row, and judging by the enthusiastic reactions he got last night he could probably repeat that number for the next five years. The only solo act to break into the top attendance chart last year and the first to do it this year, Luke Bryan is, at the very least, someone the Rodeo can count on to deliver year in and year out.

With a seemingly endless parade of hits about trucks and tan lines and dancing and how great being outdoors is, Bryan's spot smack dab in the middle of Spring Break seemed like an obvious choice, so much so that even Mother Nature warmed up after a few chilly-for-Texas days.

It’s a shame that with all that going in his favor, for the first time Luke Bryan felt somewhat underwhelming on the Rodeo stage Thursday. It wasn’t a bad show, but it just seemed to lack a certain amount of energy from Bryan, and because of that things rarely seemed to get out of first gear. Add in a stretch of ballads in the back half of the set and you got a performance that felt long, and not in the “I don’t want this night to end” good sort of way.

Even on an Off Night, Luke Bryan Is the King of RodeoHouston
Photo courtesy of Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo

Perhaps it was due to technical difficulties with his wireless equipment, but something about Bryan’s performance felt just slightly out of sync as he roamed the stage. He shook it a little and he did that werecat-growl thing he does, and it was clear he was trying to put energy into his show, but things just didn’t quite have the excitement they did in the past. Of course, even with these issues the crowd was still gonzo for the man, singing loudly when asked and popping at that the start of every song of the set.

Bryan is still his best when he straps on a guitar. While songs like “Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye” and “That’s My Kind of Night” are more immediately exciting, without all the hustle and bustle of trying to be a singer and a hype man and just focusing on the music is where Bryan excels. His interplay with his band as they rocked through the end of “Huntin’, Fishin’ and Lovin’ Every Day” was one of the highlights of the night, adding some much-needed energy to the show.

The most noteworthy moment of the night was also the least expected, as due to a miscommunication issue, the truck that carries the performers out of the arena tried to take off as Bryan was trying to climb onto the roof at the same time. It was a weird moment, but after an hour and 15 minutes of a show that was incredibly similar to last year’s performance, it was at least a break in the Rodeo routine.

Not that the Rodeo routine is necessarily a bad thing. There’s certainly a case to be made that you need artists who deliver year in and year out, who know what they’re doing when they come to town and will sell a ton of tickets. Even on a less than best night, most people seemed to walk away really happy to see the King of the Rodeo once again. And hey, there’s always next year, probably.

Even on an Off Night, Luke Bryan Is the King of RodeoHouston
Photo courtesy of Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo

Personal Bias: Fun Fact: because my country roommate is the kind of person willing to marry a dork who downloaded Static-X’s Wisconsin Death Trip while sitting at the Rodeo, I’ve pushed this entire time that “Crash My Party” be our first dance song.

The Crowd: 75,033 strong, down a whole 42 from last year. Not that you’d notice from the crowd noise: folks seemed way more into it this year. Maybe they should just officially make Spring Break Thursday officially Luke Bryan Day at the Rodeo.

Overhead In the Crowd: “Is it the video of the worm coming out of the toenail?,” asked a man, replying to a friend who wanted to show him a disgusting video. Thanks for the nightmare fuel, I guess, stranger.

Mutton Bustin’ Update: The sheep were kind of assholes tonight. While there didn’t appear to be any injuries, at least two sheep totally wrecked their riders with seemingly no remorse. It made up for an underwhelming calf scramble and a bad night for the bulls (who lost 7-1 against the cowboys).

Random Notebook Update: It seemed fitting that on the night of the biggest country show of the year in Houston, Garth Brooks was at RodeoHouston. While his future performances are not exactly the Sword of Damocles hanging over the rest of the performers, I do not envy anyone who has to take the stage after or before him. Luke Bryan may be the man, but if you told me Garth was The God I would not disagree.

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