As they stood backlit at the end of the stage runway, it was hard to be sure if that was really Dan + Shay on Friday night at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.

They just don't have the same silhouettes. Dan Smyers has shorn many of his cascading black curls. And Shay Mooney has lost more than 50 pounds.

Although the hit country duo looks different from their 2021 Target Center show, they're still the same incurable romantics with sweet, sentimental songs, including seven they offered from last year's "Bigger Houses" album, their fifth full-length.

It hasn't been their biggest album, but the project almost didn't happen. Smyers and Mooney were burned out at the end of their last tour. They didn't speak to each other for four months and perhaps, as often happens with country duos (see Florida Georgia Line, Sugarland, among others), the expiration date loomed.

But Smyers, 36, and Mooney, 32, got together and talked it out. They even made a video ("The Drive") discussing their reconciliation. Mooney told People magazine that he quit sugar and alcohol cold turkey and that led to his weight loss. And, of course, the buddies are so close that they now share an assignment — and one button — as new coaches on NBC's "The Voice."

On Friday, they were glad to be together again, giddily so. Make that misty-eyed so. After performing the tune "Bigger Houses" perched on the roof of a playground-size dollhouse, they basked in the applause, stood up and gave each other a big bear hug. And that was about their third show of emotion toward each other during the evening.

That's the key to Dan + Shay's success: unashamed emotion ― toward each other, their wives and their fans (whose overwhelming ovations drove the two country stars to tears at one point).

Smyers assured the 11,000 concertgoers that they were the best crowd on the tour. Mooney told them he wanted to take them on the road. And Smyers reminded them that the Twin Cities was the first market to embrace Dan + Shay 10 years ago, giving shoutouts to their first gig at the now-defunct Toby Keith's Bar & Grill in St. Louis Park, two local radio programmers by name, and even the daughter of one of those radio officials.

Sincere, indeed. Ingratiating, to be sure. But the fans devoured it like a box of chocolates.

Like some boxes of chocolates, however, there's plenty to love but not always enough variety. Dan + Shay's crowd-thrilling, 100-minute performance had many winning moments but often suffered from a certain sameness.

While Mooney has unquestionably the prettiest male voice in Nashville, he showed a tendency to deliver too many songs with the same breathless intensity, whether happy (most of the tunes) or heartbreaking. The 22-song set begged for better pacing (perhaps move some ballads earlier?) and more variety.

Two standouts were the outliers: a rambunctious run-through-the-crowd rendition of the Killers' rock classic "Mr. Brightside" that ignited the audience, and Dan + Shay's new "We Should Get Married," a kitschy honky-tonk romp (the most traditional country-sounding tune in their repertoire) delivered in rhinestone toreador jackets worn over their usual black T-shirts.

Other highlights included the ballad with a beat "Heartbreak on the Map," the cuddly ballad "From the Ground Up," the breezy "10,000 Hours" and the wedding classic "Speechless," the perfect word to describe the fans at the end of the night.

Since Dan + Shay's country music sounds more like 1970s soft-rock than like, say, Hank, Willie or even bro-country, it was fitting that Ben Rector, a Nashville-based pop singer, opened. He was a charmer not only with pop material like "Brand New" but also his token forays into country, including a sing-along of Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's "Fishin' in the Dark," his own country ditty "Forever Like That," and "Color Up My World," a winning duet with Hailey Whitters, the night's other opening act.