Country superstar Luke Bryan likes fireworks. He launched some Saturday at Target Field during his opening number. Boom! He exploded a few in the middle of his set. Ker-pow! And he lit up the skies during his closing piece. Bang! Burst! Wham!
What he didn’t plan was the Aquatennial fireworks going off behind him for 20 minutes during his 110-minute set. They started at perhaps an inopportune time as Bryan was in the final words of his seduction ballad “Strip It Down.”
The annual Aquatennial barrage crashed Bryan’s less-than-loud hit “Crash My Party” and provided some unexpected percussion during a series of solo acoustic numbers. Plus, for the concertgoers sitting in the stadium’s stands, the distant sparkles in the sky were a bit of a visual distraction.
But maybe that was necessary. Because Bryan, the butt-wiggling father of bro country, didn’t provide as many fireworks himself. At least if you expected him to retain his title as country’s dancingest dude.
To be sure, he swiveled his hips and shook his derrière, but not as often as he used to. Maybe, at age 42, he’s getting older and wiser. Maybe he’s slowing down. Or maybe it was the structure of his stage set, with a very wide catwalk instead of a central runway like he used at U.S. Bank Stadium in 2016.
In his tight jeans, T-shirt and ball cap, Bryan certainly worked the catwalk, sometimes with a little strut, but mostly just to cover a lot of territory.
Even though he may have been less dance-happy than in the past, the superstar certainly didn’t skimp on entertainment. With a dizzying array of lights, flame throwers, live action shots and video footage on giant screens, there was plenty of eye-candy.
Plus, the main attraction himself fell for an irresistible pink sign held by a fan, announcing it was his 21st birthday and could he have his first drink with Bryan. The star pulled the kid onstage and handed him some advice before offering a can of beer: Remove the Philadelphia Eagles jersey — not a good move in Minnesota.
Bryan, who later donned a Twins T-shirt for the encore, knows his Minnesota sports. He gave a shout-out to the Vikings and Kirby Puckett, even though the Twins hero ruined the 1991 World Series for a young Georgia boy like Bryan.
The country star next door boasted that he’d now performed in every major sports venue in the Twin Cities; well, all three stadiums and the Wild’s arena.
On Saturday in front of 40,000 fans, Bryan surveyed his entire career, covering about two dozen tunes. He didn’t offer any covers of pop songs or duets with his opening acts (Sam Hunt, Jon Pardi and Morgan Wallen) as he has done in his previous Twin Cities headline appearances. He did interpret a song he wrote for Billy Currington (“Good Directions”) and offered his take on “This Is How We Roll,” his hit collaboration with Florida Georgia Line.
As he is wont to do, Bryan inserted “Minnesota” and “Minneapolis” into various songs. He mentioned the 10,000 lakes and the Mississippi and St. Croix rivers (where he said he went fishing on Saturday) before delivering “Huntin’, Fishin’ and Lovin’ Every Day.”
In an interview this summer with Billboard magazine, Bryan talked about not writing about hunting and fishing anymore and distancing himself from the beer, babes and back roads of bro country. He mostly held to that promise on his new album, “What Makes You Country.”
Two new numbers, “Sunrise, Sunburn, Sunset” and the title track, were filled with cliches, but “Most People Are Good,” his recent No. 1 song, may be the most poignant and important piece in his 11-year recording career. Adhering to his studio mantra of “Keep it simple, stupid,” he sings, in plain-spoken language set to a simple tune, about second chances, hard work and tolerance. “I believe you love who you love,” he crooned in the chorus, “ain’t nothing you should ever be ashamed of.”
To hear that line sung by an apolitical superstar in a genre of conservative values may have been the biggest firework of the night.