Luke Bryan keeps audience involved during concert

Published 9:30 am Thursday, August 6, 2009

It didn’t rain Wednesday night at the Freeborn County Fair, but Luke Bryan wouldn’t have minded if it had.

According to the song “Rain is a Good Thing,” which Bryan wrote with a childhood friend, “rain makes corn and corn makes whiskey.”

Bryan sang about this, a rusty Chevy, being a country man, riding in trucks and good directions.

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Bryan was born in Leesburg, Ga., and began his career in country music as a songwriter after he moved to Nashville, Tenn.

The second song Bryan played was “Good Directions,” which he co-wrote for Billy Currington. The song spent three weeks at the top of the country charts.

Bryan kept the audience involved with the show by talking between songs, asking them to clap along and asking them questions like, “Where are my country girls here?” Many people answered with screams.

“We’ve got a pack of them right here,” Bryan said as he pointed to a group that stood for most of the show at the south end of the reserve section against the stage.

Bryan then played “Country Man.” After that song, Bryan asked the audience, “Can I get a yeehaw?” The audience responded with a, “Yeehaw.”

“That’s pretty good. Perfect pitch,” Bryan joked.

At one point in the show, fiddle player Kristy Jo stood on a black box and played a fiddle solo that ended with Bryan and Kristy Jo pausing and looking at each other before the band covered the gospel song “I’ll Fly Away.”

Bryan’s band also comprised a guitar player, a bass player, a steel guitar player and a drummer.

One song that energized the crowd was a cover of “Fishin’ in the Dark” by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and also performed by Garth Brooks. Many in the audience danced and sang along to this song.

After that song, Bryan asked for all the lights to go down, but a private plane flew low over the crowd a few seconds later, drawing a few laughs from the crowd.

While many of the most vocal members of the audience were young women, Bryan attracted a variety of fans of all ages, including one couple who brought an infant who wore large red ear phones to protect his ears during the show.

Two girls sitting in the front row of the reserve section made signs on the cement barrier before the show. Maria Levany held a sign that said “Luke,” and Heidi Roche held a sign that said “Bryan.”

Bryan also played songs like “You Make Me Want To,” “Welcome to the Farm,” “Do I,” “I Did It Again” and “We Rode in Trucks.”

Bryan’s guitarist moved to the end of the catwalk during “Baby’s On the Way” from Bryan’s debut 2007 album “I’ll Stay Me.” During the solo, Bryan shook his hips and danced in what resembled a mix of line dancing and Elvis Presley’s hip shimmy. Bryan also danced like this other times during the performance.

Dancing became more common in the crowd as the show went on, but many audience members were content sitting and listening to the music. There were a few empty spaces in the bleachers and the sides of the reserve section.

The energy from “Fishin’ in the Dark” carried to “All My Friends Say” from “I’ll Stay Me.” In the middle of the song, the band played a cover of “Enter Sandman” by Metallica. Many in the crowd danced, and one man in the third row modestly head banged to what Bryan called the only rock ’n’ roll song of his set.

The band soon transitioned back into “All My Friends Say,” and then the entire band left the stage and the drummer stayed on for a solo.

One of the last songs Bryan performed was “Play Something Country,” a song originally performed by Brooks and Dunn.

After releasing “I’ll Stay Me” through Capitol Records in 2007, Bryan released an EP in March called “Spring Break with All My Friends.” Bryan’s second album, “Doin’ My Thing,” will be released Oct. 6.

Bryan stayed after the show to sign autographs in front of the stage.