In the darkness Thursday at Xcel Energy Center, Thomas Rhett suddenly arose amid stage fog — playing drums with his back to the sell-out audience. His baseball jacket announced "St. Paul."

Who knew that Rhett, a vocalist/guitarist with 18 No. 1 country songs, is a drummer? Well, his music is highly rhythmic. A hip-hop vocal cadence, some breezy R&B, a taste of beachy that borders on reggae, a bit of a flair for funk, and lots of ballads with a beat. He may have a pedal steel guitarist in his band, but that instrument was barely audible in Rhett's twang-free performance on Thursday.

And Rhett manifested his rhythm with his moves. He strutted, strolled, skipped, pirouetted, pogoed, boot scooted, swiveled his hips. Sorry, Luke Bryan, but Mr. Light on His Feet has more dance moves than any other male country star.

At 33, Rhett is eminently likable and approachable. He grabbed fans' phones and snapped selfies for them, autographed a cowboy boot, shook hands with fans and held up signs that folks had made to announce birthdays and favorite songs.

He showed a sense of place, discussing his history in the Twin Cities from his first gig at the Cabooze bar (he joked that Thursday's after-party would be there, as well) to experiencing the coldest day in his life, in Minneapolis on Jan. 1 singing outdoors at Target Field at the NHL Winter Classic.

"I know you love your hockey here," he said, "but playing in negative 25 degrees is above my pay grade."

Well, he did manage four songs that day with his bearded head buried in a stocking cap.

One of the appealing things about Rhett is that he's a proud girl dad. Before singing "Life Changes," he showed home videos of his four young daughters, ages 1 to 7, over the years. That brought smiles throughout the arena, where the majority of the 15,000 people were women.

Rhett endears himself to these fans with his enticing mixture of romantic pop ballads like "Die a Happy Man" and breezy R&B-lite like "Get Me Some of That." But beneath that omnipresent backward ballcap is a skillful entertainer with a mischievous grin.

Rhett utilized an uncluttered but unostentatiously artful stage with a modicum of pyro and confetti. He let his tousled brown hair down for a fun medley surveying seven decades of music, from Elvis Presley's "Hound Dog" to Walk the Moon's "Shut Up and Dance." He was not necessarily well suited for all the numbers (he lacked the swagger for the Rolling Stones' "Beast of Burden" and panache for James Brown's "I Got You (I Feel Good)" but the medley was an engaging and inclusive diversion.

The history lesson added to the entertainment value in a repertoire that was short on high-energy songs. Opening act Nate Smith joined Rhett and pumped up "Beer Can't Fix" even though he was flatter than an open can of yesterday's beer. It worked, though, because it enhanced the rhythm of Rhett's 115-minute performance.

Cole Swindell, the night's other opening act, cruised through 15 selections in an hour that were well received because they were radio-friendly ballads and medium-tempo tunes.