If all Luke Bryan did at a concert was show up on stage, flash his pearly whites and do a few of his well-known booty-shaking dance moves, would that be enough to satisfy his fans?
The country superstar did more than that, of course, during his 20-plus song set on Saturday night at Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre. He skipped up, down and around his list of hits like “Roller Coaster” and “Crash My Party.” He even entered his elaborate stage on an ATV with a small platform on it, and sang his opening “What Makes You Country” from atop that ever-so-wobbly perch until crew members moved it offstage toward the song’s end.
But Bryan, a three-time Entertainer of the Year from the two dueling country music groups, knows there are certain expectations at his shows. About 40 minutes in, he joked about all the women who brought their daughters to the show with them: “We got tickets, we’re going to go watch Luke Bryan shake his ass for two hours. Don’t put me on Instagram. Don’t tell dad.” It was a funny and self-aware moment, and a great lead-in to one of his most heartfelt songs of recent day: “Most People are Good.”
As he launched into his current hit, “Knockin’ Boots,” there had to have been other conversations springing up around the amphitheatre much like one I was part of, by people who hadn’t heard the title phrase (or understood its meaning) before Bryan’s song. So along with being an entertainer, it seems, Bryan is an educator as well.
He added a few comments about the steamy conditions — the temperature was in the 80s but the humidity’s tentacles put everyone in a death squeeze — but praised the nearly 17,000 St. Louis fans at the show “because you always show up.”
“Rain is a Good Thing,” “Play It Again,” “Kick the Dust Up” and the lovely “Drink a Beer” all got their turn, but Bryan threw in a few covers, too. He was joined by both his opening acts for “Dust on the Bottle” and the Joe Diffie hit “John Deere Green,” which wound up being one of the highlights of the night.
Bryan unleashed three of those throaty purr-growl sounds and broke into at least four gyrating dance sequences that got some in the audience squealing.
He wrapped up his main set with “That’s My Kinda Night” at about the 90-minute mark, then came back out for the expected “Country Girl (Shake It For Me)” encore along with Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer.”
Bryan got support from Cole Swindell and Jon Langston. All three singers are Georgia natives, and Swindell came onstage to big fanfare complete with lasers and lights and an elaborate two-tier set with stairs bisecting it. The intro seemed more like a headliner than an opener, and while Swindell was in good voice for songs like “Hope You Get Lonely Tonight” and “Break Up in the End” his energy level seemed set to reserve compared with some of his previous live performances.
But he earned huge ovations for the tear-jerking “You Should Be Here” and closed strong with his “Chillin’ It.”
Langston got the night started with 25 minutes that included his best-known song so far, “When It Comes to Lovin’ You.”