Minneapolis is the City of Lakes. Now it’s appropriate to call us the City of Stadiums, as well.
TCF Bank Stadium, Target Field and finally U.S. Bank Stadium have all opened since 2009.
The Bank, home of the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers football team, called upon mighty U2 for its inaugural concert in 2011. Target Field, where the Twins always seem to struggle, hired Kenny Chesney, country’s concert king, for its first really big show in 2012. And on Friday, the new Vikings palace turned to Luke Bryan.
Luke who? Yes, he is the Country Music Association’s reigning entertainer of the year and owner of 15 No. 1 country hits. And he is the first act to ever headline two of Minneapolis’ three new stadiums. But when those other sports venues opened, Bryan was just an opening act for the likes of Tim McGraw.
Last summer, Bryan, he of the achy, shaky butt, drew 43,000 to the Bank, and he topped it on Friday with 46,000 at USBS. He hasn’t released a new album or reconfigured his stage setup since his Bank gig, but he did change his approach to his opening acts. Last year, he trotted out four fellows, including the then-red-hot Florida Georgia Line. This year, Bryan brought Dustin Lynch, a repeater from the Bank, and the wonderful Little Big Town, Nashville’s answer to Fleetwood Mac.
And Bryan, 40, brought his A-game. Neither his voice (a nasal twang) nor material (sample lyric: “Girl, you make my speakers go boom boom”) is especially distinctive, but the hunky son of a Georgia peanut farmer sure knows how to entertain. He showed infectious energy, the best butt wiggle in the country business and some rowdy friends (his opening acts) who helped him up the fun.
And Bryan pandered to the crowd in the spirit of Minnesota-dropping Alabama and Garth “Mr. Sincere” Brooks. Bryan kept yelling “Vikings touchdown,” promised not one but two Super Bowl victories for the Vikes and even insisted on being the first person to sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” in the new stadium. (Someone forgot to tell him that Kat Perkins of “The Voice” fame actually did it two weeks ago at a soccer game at USBS.)
Bryan was so stoked for the occasion that when Little Big Town joined him onstage he declared: “It’s nice to know what a billion dollars will get ya.”
Little Big Town’s contributions were priceless, from the opening, harmony-heavy set that tested the acoustics of the new building to LBT singer Karen Fairchild’s sexy duet with Bryan featuring a cleverly choreographed pas de deux (“Home Alone Tonight”) to the five-voiced, tequila-fueled seduction medley of Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud” and Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On.” The medley proved that Bryan can croon soulfully instead of merely relying on the lazy hip-hop sing-song delivery of his own songs.
But Bryan is really a frat boy at heart, which he demonstrated when Lynch, dressed in a Minnesota Wild jersey, joined him for a rollicking rendition of Brooks & Dunn’s “Play Something Country,” complete with them chugging cans of beer and pouring and tossing beers to fans.
After cheesy detours into Steve Miller’s “The Joker,” Alabama’s “Mountain Music” and some freestyling hip-hop about “Minnesota knows how to party,” Bryan shifted into his quick-strike, two-minute offense with the party hits “That’s My Kind of Night,” “I Don’t Want This Night to End” and “Country Girl (Shake It for Me),” a hick-hop explosion with indoor fireworks and lots of booty, hip and shoulder shaking from Bryan. Touchdown Luke!
No wonder the women outnumbered the men 10-to-1. That ratio is likely to be reversed on Saturday night when Metallica, those hard-rock kingpins, takes over USBS. Here’s hoping their sound engineers learn from Friday, when the sound was praiseworthy on the main floor and lower level but unacceptably Metrodome-evoking echoy in the upper levels.