Last night, country megastar Luke Bryan brought his sold out “What Makes you country tour” to Jacksonville Veteran’s Memorial Arena. The tour is in support of his sixth studio album of the same title released last winter. The tour arrives after the country heartthrob’s first stint on the revival of American Idol, where he stands as judge.
When I arrived at the venue, the heat was thick in the air. But it did not stop his fans from coming out. There was a sea of people everywhere. Every corner you saw plenty of cowboy boots, large signs, and shirts with his face on it. All of them showing the same smile, from person to person. Being a fan for years, I decided to splurge and upgrade to the VIP experience. Upon arrival, I was escorted to a private area where I was given a gift blanket and a laminate VIP lanyard. From there I was guided to a well-hidden tent. The tent was also swimming with smiling fans. There were finger foods, dessert trays, and you can’t forget about the cash bar. Far north was a stage, where the country singer would come to perform an intimate acoustic set for those who paid the extra for the VIP experience.
The heat was not in short supply, but the circulating fans sure were. I mingled and started conversations with different fans, many being their first VIP experience as well. One lady flew from Iowa to share the experience with her niece.
“This was an anniversary gift from my husband and this is my very first Luke show! I’m so excited I am falling out of my dress!”
Her excitement and comment got the attention of other fans who chimed in to add.
“You’re gonna love it”
After waiting an hour, it was finally time. The tall glass of water country singer had finally appeared with his acoustic guitar. He greeted the gleaming fans and thanked us for spending the money to be here. He didn’t waste any time either, he opened with the second single from his current album, “Most People are Good.” In mid-song, the country singer choked and started coughing.
“Oh, excuse me…I think I swallowed a bug. That’s never happened before, coughing up a lung mid-song. Y’all forgive me though right? Let’s get back to it!”
And just like that, he picked back up and finished the song without any more hiccups or bugs. He kept the flow going with two other songs, “Sunrise, Sunburn, Sunset” and “Huntin’, Fishin’, and Loving Everyday.” After being showered with applause the country singer had one last comment.
“Thank y’all so much, now let’s all get inside where the AC is, I’ll see you all in there for the big show” he said, before exiting the stage.
When I got into the arena, Jon Pardi, the opening act was starting his set. The singer commanded the crowd and had every woman’s attention with his voice, face and physique. After his 30-minute set, the air was thick with anticipation for Luke. The arena had filled in and there wasn’t an empty seat in the house. After 20 odd minutes, the lights went out and the singer appeared at the center of his B-stage. He started the show with his popular shaking hit, “Country Girl (Shake it for me).” Hit after hit, song after song, Luke created moments for newcomers and returning concert-goers alike. For the two hours he was on stage, every person in the building was one with him. Nothing else outside of that arena mattered, but the songs that spoke to each heart in that building. Whether it was slower jams like “Drunk on You” or “Play it Again”, or party hits like “Kick the Dust Up” or “I Don’t want this Night to End” everyone was on the same wave length.
I left before the final encore to beat the traffic. But as I was leaving, I was reminded that life is always going to be hard. There will be difficult moments, heartbreaking moments, moments that make you want to scream. But never forget to take time to enjoy moments like these. Whether you’re in the nose bleeds or front row, experiences have a way of helping you heal. Plus, it was pure fun. What makes Luke country? His southern roots that helps him connect many hearts in a genuine way.
by: Chris Clark