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Brett Eldredge’s “The Long Way” Tour At The Hammerstein Ballroom, Saturday, May 5th, 2018, Reviewed

At Luke Bryan’s excellent MSG concert last year (here) the terrific country singer with a string of hits to his name, Brett Eldredge, was the best thing about the night. The reason is simple, he is a great songwriter. Not good, great. A king of melody and a king of the hook and one of the best natured lyricists imaginable, and if you add a certain physical litheness (he looks like Disney’s Goofy after a strenuous workout) , it would certainly explain the large female contingent at Hammerstein yesterday for the final night of his “The Long Way” tour.

There are a lot of things to be said for catching the final night of a tour but one isn’t tee-shirts, they had run out of tees with the tour dates on em by the time I reached Hammerstein, on the twelve date tour taking him from Boise, Idaho, to, well, to here (Brett: “I didn’t know where I wanted it to start but I knew where I wanted it to finish”.  It was an instant sell out). I arrived as Jillian Jaqueline’s set ended so I missed her biggest hit, “Reason” and caught Dev Dawson’s show, an iffy if heartfelt production.  Dev looks like if Dave Gahan was 30 years younger and never got unstuck on heroin. Dev has an intensity and a good rocking band, but, with the exception of the excellent “All Of Me,” it didn’t connect well. I was in the first balcony and the conversation level was depressing.

With four albums and six hits to his name, Brett has the material he needs to persuade an audience of fans to drop their inhibitions so he does just that. The stage is pleasant enough, nothing fancy shmancy, and whether sitting on a couch or a bed (for “Raymond” -a moving song for his Grandmother  during the or the “Bedhead Jams” portion (a reference to a live broadcast on snapchats he used to do when he’d wake up early and sing like “a crazy person” into his phone, there must have been something of the professional movers about the gig), most of the time he was on the main floor. Around the halfway mark he invited a  guy on stage to pour  tequila shots for Cinco De Mayo, but mostly Brett had enough songs, sixteen, to not have the time to mess around during the 90 minutes.

With great songs, a fine singer, and an adoring audience, Brett shoulda killed it and yet he didn’t. The difference between Brett and, say, Luke Bryan, isn’t that Brett has better material (material he co-writes)  or a better voice, but that Luke, for all his friendliness, comes across like a rock star and Brett comes across like an opening act, even when bringing his dog on stage and having the audience serenade the woof with “You Are My Sunshine”,” he can’t quite balance his show right.

The set peaked very very early, the second and third songs of the evening were “Love Someone” and “Something I’m Good At”. I heard “Love Someone” at MSG months before it was released and worshipped it then, I worship it now, and Brett is a serious and intense though fun filled performer. He gets all of both of em.

“I’ve been a dreamer, I’ve always been a dreamer” Brett claimed during the Bedroom Jams solo acoustic portion, while singing the beautiful “Mean To Me,” it is  less a revelation and more spiel, though the audience knew every word, as did I, of course. But I wanted him to break through. Brett is a better songwriter than Eric Church, he is one of the most  considerate and kind songwriters around and in a brutal world he is a balm against the pain, but he can’t sell em the way Church can. Brett is a philogynist, something we truly need in a world where women are forced to fight back so angrily against their treatment by men. His love is clear and unbending, he never attacks women at all, even “Cycles” is sweet natured. But the set has too many country cliches,  though no dead areas. Musically. It is an act and the calling card of country is sincerity but Brett is sincerity on top of sincerity.

If that sounds like damning him, my grade proves something other, I like him a lot and his material was ace, the band were a hard rocking pleasure, and the songs, everyone of them (he can’t seem to compose a bad one) and his one cover, Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” was also excellent. But his sense of proportion while accurate seemed to miss on the big moment. Even another of his best songs ever, the dance crazed and stunning “Beat To The Music” leading to the encore, seemed to hold back. Though 33 years old, Brett has more than enough time to get it right, till then, kudos to countries best songwriter.

Grade: B+

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