First UC stop finds Luke Bryan coloring outside the country lines

Luke Bryan Photo by Andy Argyrakis

As Luke Bryan was encoring with “That’s My Kind Of Night” during his first of two United Center shows, he proudly proclaimed “put in my country ride hip-hop mixtape/little Conway, a little T-Pain, might just make it rain.” To those of Twitty’s generation, the idea of cross referencing a country legend with a recent hip-hop flavor would be unfathomable, but with a mostly 20-something crowd whose smart phone playlists probably reflect such diversity, the bro with the baseball hat hit a sweet spot.

Though entertaining at every single turn of the truck, the headliner would’ve been better off exploring more meaningful messages, such as remembering lost loved ones during “Drink A Beer,” rather than delivering inane lines like “rain makes corn, corn makes whiskey/whiskey makes my baby, feel a little frisky” throughout “Rain Is A Good Thing.”

No, his ultra-shiny, genre-blurring brand of modern country isn’t for purists, nor can it hold a candle to the artistry of today’s neotraditionalists, but make no mistake, Bryan is selling an astronomical amount of records across an industry drought and filling up a venue two nights in a row that even Madonna only visited once. And like any current arena act, the 39-year-old brought plenty of flash, including video walls, a catwalk, a secondary stage, lasers, a fishing dock prop and a full-sized pick-up surrounded by flames, plus moves straight out of a male stripper’s manual performed in crazy tight jeans.

“Kick The Dust Up,” the lead off track from his latest project “Kill The Lights,” was a natural place to start, blending palatable southern stylings, husky harmonies, dirty guitars and electronic flourishes, all augmented by a super slick six piece band. Over the next 105 minutes, Bryan rapidly flew through full versions and medleys of songs dating back to his 2007 debut (with the greatest emphasis on 2013’s blockbuster “Crash My Party” as opposed to the new tunes), interspersed with quick takes on Tim McGraw, Maroon 5, The Weeknd, Daft Punk and many others.

Though entertaining at every single turn of the truck, the headliner would’ve been better off exploring more meaningful messages, such as remembering lost loved ones during “Drink A Beer,” rather than delivering inane lines like “rain makes corn, corn makes whiskey/whiskey makes my baby, feel a little frisky” throughout “Rain Is A Good Thing.” In the latter mold, the danceable “Country Girl (Shake It For Me)” wouldn’t win any points with women’s libbers, but its deafening reaction was irrefutable, suggesting that even if Bryan doesn’t go down with greats like Johnny, Willie and Waylon (or even Garth, Tim and Kenny), he’s going to host one hell of a party however long as it lasts.


Luke Bryan returns to the United Center on Thursday, October 29. For additional details visit www.livenation.com.

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