Luke Bryan – Dirt Road Diaries Tour – August 31, 2013 – Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion – Bangor, Maine
In a world of uncertainty, one thing is for sure – Bangor, Maine loves country music. There is no doubt about it. Luke Bryan’s Dirt Road Diaries Tour rolled into town for a sold out show August 31st at Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion and thrilled the 16,500 fans who had been waiting all summer to see the hottest country show in the summer concert series line up.
Let’s get one thing about live country music straight. Although typically beer-soaked and spiked with a bit of good-natured party attitude, a country show is a thing of beauty that may be singularly American. While the artists on stage must bring their energy and talent to the people, the crowd is giving everything they have right back to the music. Watching the crowd is as much fun as watching the stage. Friends share and sing together, remembering the feeling the song evokes and creating a new layer to their ownership of the music. This is a joint effort in bringing every song, every note of the fiddle and guitar to life. Country music is not just a well-written song – it is a soundtrack, it becomes a memory, it sparks an attitude, and, for many, builds an identity. And country performers clearly understand.
Opening the show, Kelleigh Bannen, proved that she knows how to work hard-rocking country music. Pushing that heavier edge of the genre with several of her songs, Bannen sells it with a voice can travel from gravel to light, hushed, and tender. All this serious new artist needs is some traction on country radio. Her set included new single, “Sorry on the Rocks,” and the sure to be a sentimental favorite, “Church Clothes.”
Keifer and Shawna Thompson, known as Thompson Square, were second in the line up. These two are as much fun to watch entertaining and engaging the crowd as they are to watch performing their style of upbeat, fun popular country. Backed with an elaborate stage and exciting lighting, Thompson Square had a line up of hits that resonated with the audience, including “I Got You,” “Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not,” and number one single, “If I Didn’t Have You.” Thompson Square are fun and generous and willing to bring the fans along for a wonderful ride.
A shout out of appreciation has to be given to the tour videographers. Just the sheer numbers of attendees and the laws of physics make it nearly impossible for many tickets holders to see the stage and enjoy all the antics on the stage, but the crew of folks running the videos for the projection screens made all the difference in the world. I enjoyed the variety of angles offered and the quick editing of the video. Fantastic.
Luke Bryan performed in Bangor in 2012 and the girls are still talking about it. 2013’s performance will undoubtedly be of legendary status as well. Bryan thrills the crowd with his mix of traditional country elements, songs with clever lyrics spun to tell stories that only can be told by a country artist, and a big old country boy grin that makes hearts go, yes, I have to say it, boom, boom. This is happy, feel good music able to get the crowd grooving and always wanting more.
Starting his performance with a string of party style hits, Bryan had the crowd going immediately. They know what to expect – nonstop hits and fun – and Bryan obliges. While there is some gratuitous ass shaking, this is good natured fun for all and family friendly entertainment. Bryan connects with the crowd and makes each fan feel wanted and special. While this is pretty typical for country performers, Luke Bryan is especially generous with his smile and his attention, at one point sitting on the edge of the stage, feet dangling over the edge. No wonder this was a sold out show – he’s loved for both his music and his hospitality.
Bryan’s set list included hits “Someone Else is Calling You Baby,” “Suntan City,” and “Crash My Party,” but I must admit that the somewhat silly “Rain is a Good Thing” is my favorite Luke Bryan song. This song embodies the one thing that country lyrics must do well that other music styles can not compete against. The lyrics are built on a simple, fun hook that tells a simple story – “rain makes corn and corn makes whiskey. Whiskey makes my baby be a little frisky…” No, this isn’t Shakespeare. It is country. I was also very happy to see his line up include the bluesy redneck style anthem “Muckalee Creek Water,” s song about identity and tradition, and the stage fog and catfish story was a nice touch as well.
After slowing things down with a trio of songs, including the tour’s namesake, “Dirt Road Diaries,” Bryan brought the party back to the stage with “The Only Way I Know” and kept the throttle wide open straight through the encore and “Country Girl.”
This show was everything Bangor expects from a country show – great music, generous performers, and booming beer tent business. Thank you, Mr. Bryan and all the performers, for a rip roaring night.