He didn’t move like Jagger. Luke Bryan didn’t have those little skittering steps like Mick Jagger when the Rolling Stones god took the stage at TCF Bank Stadium 2½ weeks ago. No, on Saturday at the Bank, Bryan shook it like a Polaroid picture.
All wiggling butt and pickup truck machismo.
Bryan is the king of bro-country, the subgenre that features lyrics about trucks, beer, babes, dirt roads and partying. He teamed up with Florida Georgia Line, the bro-country princes, to the delight of 43,000 fans at the first country-music concert at the University of Minnesota football stadium.
They hit the stage with one message: This is how we bro, ur, roll.
For Bryan, that meant fireworks behind the stage as British rocker Muse’s “Supremacy” played and then an odd pregnant pause — or should we say technical difficulties? — before a video of a pickup truck appeared on large video screens. And finally Bryan emerged from below the stage, singing “Kick the Dust Up,” the title song of this tour.
Too bad his nasally tenor had all the power of a Go-Kart when the occasion called for a Ram 1500 pickup.
That’s not how you should sound when you’re trying to turn a cornfield into a party, as the lyrics go.
Let’s just say he received a louder response when he tossed off his jacket than he did when he sang “All My Friends Say,” his first hit dating back to 2007. But then he shook up a can of beer and shook his derrière — and he had the crowd at first wiggle.
At song’s end, he caught a can of beer from a roadie and smashed it triumphantly on the stage. Bro knows how to party.
And to think Bryan, who turns 39 next month, is nearly old enough to be the father of most of the people in his audience.
Slow down, partner. Lest you think the married father of two young boys is a full-time party animal, he switched it up quickly by playing the ballad “Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye,” a romantic rewrite of the Stones’ “Let’s Spend the Night Together.”
And he finally found his voice, which sounded especially effective on “Play It Again,” another romantic number (which takes place in a truck).
Some romantic moments
Actually, the approachable country-star next door delivered many mushy moments. He also turned serious on “Drink a Beer,” his pensive ballad about remembering a lost loved one to whom he’ll drink a beer. Enveloped in stage fog, he sat on a faux pier (it’s part of the lyric, which rhymes with beer) and then asked the audience to reprise the chorus with him. It was a pretty sound on a summer Saturday night.
As the reigning CMA and ACM entertainer of the year, Bryan showed his flair for showmanship. He stood atop a black pickup, surrounded by real flames, for the encore of “That’s My Kind of Night.” For “Rain Is a Good Thing,” he displayed live fireworks and rain (on the video screens). He designed a runway built like a cross, with a small stage in the intersection, and he definitely worked every stretch of the mammoth space during his 95-minute set.
Bryan was canny enough to bring opening acts Randy Houser and Thomas Rhett to join him on a spirited cover of pop group Maroon 5’s “Sugar.” And the ballcap-wearing superstar invited Florida Georgia Line to accompany him on “The Only Way I Know,” Bryan’s collaboration with Jason Aldean and Eric Church. That kind of looseness added an element seldom witnessed at big-time country shows.
Although Bryan clearly provided a frat-boy kind of fun, he wasn’t as exciting in a football stadium as was last year at a hockey arena in St. Paul. Fireworks onstage are more important than those projected into the air.
FGL has its own version
Florida Georgia Line has its own version of the bro-country formula: Top 40 simplicity, hip-hop cadence to the vocals, catchy choruses, oodles of energy and the spirit of a WWE tag team wrestlers (one redneck, one pretty boy).
On Saturday, Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley added a little reggae touch, too, with “Sun Daze” from last fall’s “Anything Goes,” their second album.
While backup musicians played banjo and dobro, FGL’s lyrics showed off the diversity of their influences by mentioning both Merle Haggard and Mick Jagger (that’s also their idea of rhyming).
“Dirt,” the hit ballad from “Anything Goes,” proved that FGL can be serious, as Hubbard, 28, crooned wistful memories of all the cool small-town things that take place on dirt.
But more typical was “Cruise,” their megahit that’s perfect for a breezy evening, and “This Is How We Roll,” a twangy sing-songy hip-hop delivered with Florida/Georgia accents.
FGL’s hourlong set and Bryan’s taste of “Sugar” weren’t the only times that the five-act, 5½-hour marathon showed its pop roots.
Between acts, DJ Rock played hits by Hozier, Drake, Pink and Ed Sheeran — not the fare you might typically expect at a country concert. But this crowd skewed younger than those at stadium shows by Kenny Chesney, who returns for two nights at Target Field in July. And the fans, especially the teens and college-age, partied to those pop recordings and also responded when many of the acts threw in covers of recent pop hits.
Bryan grafted some of Taio Cruz’s 2010 pop smash “Dynamite” onto the end of his own “I Don’t Want This Night To End.” Opening act Houser, who proved to be the kind of male belter that country could use, offered Sam Smith’s “Stay with Me,” which wasn’t worthy of Houser’s big vocal range.
And opener Rhett, who showed off un-Nashvillian instincts by adding old-school pop-soul touches, covered Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Funk,” which ruined an otherwise impressive set.
Maybe this is how country bros roll these days.