Luke Bryan, Brett Eldredge
Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
September 22, 2017
To call Luke Bryan polarizing would be an understatement. Not since Garth Brooks crossed over into the pop landscape has a country figure drawn such scorn while simultaneously being labeled the savior of a genre by his supporters. Some view Bryan as changing the face of country while making the genre more accessible to a wider fanbase. Others decry him as its modern-day downfall, a pioneer of bro-country and the antithesis of such luminaries as Chris Stapelton and Sturgill Simpson.
The truth lies somewhere in between. No, Bryan isn’t old-school country in the vein of Merle, Waylon and Willie, nor is he some bro sent to end country music as we know it. Rather, he’s a remarkable talent whose showmanship and ability to control a crowd were quite evident during his rousing set before a packed Woodlands Pavilion Friday as part of his Huntin’, Fishin’ and Lovin’ Everyday Tour.
Now, to wow a sold-out Houston-area crowd every now and again is no big thing. To do so three times in one year is quite another. Friday was Bryan's second stop in The Woodlands in the past 12 months; so including RodeoHouston this past March, that makes a hat trick of Bayou City appearances over the past year. He must be doing something right.
Friday night, he did it by ripping through a 23-song, 100-minute set that was chock-full of hits, many fun and others poignant. Most importantly, there were tributes aplenty to the city of Houston post-Hurricane Harvey.
Bryan kicked things off with the uptempo "Move," which set the tone for what a Luke Bryan show is all about – namely, one big party. From there, he delved into a set list that, thanks to his decade atop country's pecking order, was absolutely loaded with hits like early selections “Kick the Dust Up” and “That’s My Kind of Night.”
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Then Bryan got a little serious for a moment. Most mainstream-country fans know that one of Bryan’s biggest hits is titled “Rain Is a Good Thing.” Thanks to Hurricane Harvey this city has certainly had enough rain for quite some time, as anyone who lives in and around here can attest. So in an effort to bring a little levity to a serious situation, Bryan changed the tune, for one night only, to “Rain Ain’t a Good Thing.” It was a small gesture, but with all this area has been through in recent weeks, it was certainly appreciated.
Bryan wasn’t done paying tribute to Houston, though. As the set wound down, and having already blown through hits like “All My Friends Say,” “Roller Coaster” and “Drunk On You,” along with covers of such classics as “Sweet Caroline” and “Fishin’ In the Dark,” Bryan re-emerged from backstage wearing a 'Houston Strong' T-shirt. He dedicated the show to all the first responders who did wonders during and after Harvey, which drew quite an ovation from the local crowd.
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From there, he closed the show with hits like “I Don’t Want This Night to End” and “Country Girl (Shake it for Me),” before closing out the festivities with a version of Guns N’ Roses’ “Paradise City.” It was a fitting end to a textbook Luke Bryan show – fun, poignant at times, certainly memorable. Opinions of Bryan the musician may vary, but one thing is certain – the man knows how to entertain.
So, How Was the Opener? Brett Eldredge is beginning to develop quite a following of his own. On the heels of his self-titled release, which dropped last month and nearly missed debuting in the top spot on the Billboard charts (settling for a No. 2), Eldredge drew quite a crowd for an opening act. Eldredge, a veteran of sorts with four albums to his credit, brought the crowd to its feet with a rousing 45-minute set.
Overheard in the Crowd: “I left the babies at home with my husband tonight!,” said one of the ladies sitting behind us. She wasn’t alone. The crowd, and in particular our section, was littered with groups of married ladies out enjoying a little girls' night at the country music show. Good for them; I hope they all had fun. The ladies in our section, who were awesome, sure as hell did.