Luke Bryan At Madison Square Garden, Wednesday, March 1st, 2017, Reviewed
The love that dare not speak its name! BROMANCE meets Bro-Country!! It peaked years ago but it ain’t dead yet pop pickers, and at a sold out Madison Square Garden Wednesday evening Luke Bryan brought young innocent Brett Young and goofball lookalike Brett Eldredge along for four hours of pickup trucks, girls in daisy dukes, and summertime good times: a country rock and pop extravaganza with your fiddles for free.
It shouldn’t work this well, it’s like being forced fed a party: it’s too frenetic, too much he asks you with a grin if you’re having a good time. You get tired just watching the good ol’ boys tear it up. Young is the apprentice, a 35 year old Candide for the modern age getting his heart broken on New Year’s Eve, Eldredge is the true talent at 30 years of age, he is a veteran and a major songwriter from Illinois of all all places: Eldredge is in the process of peaking. Luke Bryan has sold over 25 million singles and is still the poster boy for everything wrong with country, 40 years old in a backwards baseball cap, he is less Peter Pan and more Pinnochio. I, myself, have yet to write one nice word about Bryan. Til now.
Wednesday night, Luke was exhausting and energetic as he flirted with the girls, signed albums, high fived and flew down the T Bone double stage -moving the entire band from one main stage to one in the middle of the arena. His band was way too loud, way too don’t threaten me with a good time. Luke opened the evening by thanking our armed forces (and teachers and, er, crossing guards) and later he quite literally draped himself in the flag. He handed out a total of four beers (one of the big moments on stage -that’s it?). But it is easy to see hear appeal: he has a booming baritone, and he can sell a song and sell it to the cheap seats. With his co-songwriter Jody Stevens on guitar and a drummer to die for pounding him into a groove where one doesn’t exist, Luke breathed life into some extremely annoying country and when it comes to the times he gets it right, the for the good times “Strip It Down,” and its aftermath “Drink A Beer,” the blue noted “Crash My Party” and the more than apt for a forty year old new song “Fast,” he has the sort of voice that adds import to lightness: he makes you feel you are hearing something you aren’t. With his last album, the two years and counting Kill The Lights, Luke is attempting to grow old gracefully with limited success, still two years later they sounded better now the anger with the guy has subsided.
Around the halfway mark of Luke’s set he brings out Eldredge. Eldredge had already performed a simply immaculate set. His voice is better than Luke’s and Young’s combined and so is his songs. The latest single “Something I’m Good At” was as thrilling live as it was on record, a wild blast of pure and deserved energy, and it isn’t close to his only one. “Beat To The Music” is a great slow dance song, and what I guess is a new one is even better than either: “You laugh at the way I dance, you smile when I hold your hand…” he sings on “To Love Someone” ehich is gonna be huge, MAMMOTH. I guess we’ll get it in a couple of months. Meanwhile the highlight of Eldredge’s set was a oldie “Mean To Me” and it is such a songerly song , he was like a young Marshall Crenshaw, so filled with good nature and affection:
“If I could be the fire in your firefly,
The cool in the rain,
The spark in your eye,
The answer to your prayer,
And the faith that sets you free,
Then I’d be what you mean to me.”
Anyway, Eldredge sucked singing “Night Moves” with Luke on piano in the middle of MSG, and the bro-y shooting back Tequila shots was asinine. Young came out and they made up for it a little with a “Thinking Out Loud” segue “Let’s Get It On” mini-medley. Then Luke powered his way to “Enter The Sandman” and left to Boston.
I make no great claims for Bryan, he has reached his zenith anyway, but he can put on a show and he does. It has this in common with mainstream country, it respects its audience and it respects itself. I know why you hate Bryan, I realize there is something pathetic in a 40 year old man singing about Spring Break. The songs aren’t good enough (the voice is), the words aren’t good enough. I get it. But he was still pretty good.