Who needs the Oscars? Country superstar Luke Bryan – and opening acts Cole Swindell and Lee Brice – showed it was their kind of night at sold-out Xcel.
Hollywood got all dolled up in its tuxedoes and gowns on Sunday night for the Academy Awards. More than 15,000 Minnesotans got all duded up in their tight jeans, plaid Western shirts and stylish boots for country superstar Luke Bryan’s That’s My Kind of Night Tour at the sold-out Xcel Energy Center.
In the spirit of the Oscars, we’d like to present these prizes for Bryan’s show.
Best entrance at a country concert by an artist with two first names. Bryan came up in a burning ring of fire — atop a black pickup truck, in an all-black outfit, belting out the hit “That’s My Kind of Night.”
Best dance moves by a male in the history of country music. Bryan, 37, didn’t shake it like a Polaroid picture, no he moved like Ricky Martin — all rolling torso and swiveling hips. The fans — 90 percent of the crowd looked to be teen and 20-something women — screamed for these moves— especially during the closing “Country Girl (Shake It for Me)” when he shook it for them.
Best staging of a country concert this year. Appearing on a large round stage in the middle of the arena (attached to the main stage by a runway) for more than half the concert, Bryan gave the effect of a concert of the round without being in the round. The net effect was there were no bad seats.
Best momentum killer in the middle of an exciting, energetic concert. The blustery deer-hunting tribute “Drinkin’ Beer Wastin’ Bullets” had all the subtlety of Hank Williams Jr. The ensuing “Suntan City” turned into a beer-tending session more than a song as Bryan tossed cans of Miller Lite (a sponsor) from a Cabela’s cooler (another sponsor) to fans next to the stage. Then he pandered to the people — or actually pulled the plug on the party — with his flow-impaired rapping on Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ pop blockbuster “Can’t Hold Us.”
Best way to compensate for equipment failures and a ham-fisted drummer who was not in the pocket. Bryan turned on his Southern charm, ad libbing two lines at the piano of Prince’s “Purple Rain” and rhapsodizing about ice fishing (he smartly knew the season ended this weekend) and the cold weather (duh).
Best out-of-nowhere story since Minneapolis actor Barkhad Abdi. A year ago, Cole Swindell, who used to sell T-shirts at Bryan’s concerts, didn’t have a record deal. Now he has country’s No. 1 song, “Chillin’ It,” a bro-country anthem that was the highlight of his encouraging opening set on Sunday.
Best performance by a former college football longsnapper with a stuffed-up nose. Lee Brice, the second of two opening acts, couldn’t get his voice out of his head but he carried on with bro-country spirit, nonetheless.
Most insincere speech of night. At set’s end, Brice declared: “This has been the best night ever. Seriously, y’all.”
Best Miss Congeniality line uttered at the concert. “I have a meet-and-greet pass for Luke Bryan. But I missed it. Why? Because I’m blonde.”
Best theme song for a country concert disguised as a nearly 4-hour commercial for beer and trucks. Swindell’s “Brought to You By Beer.”
Twitter: @JonBream • 612-673-1719