Having seen the line up for this year’s Guitar-B-Que in aid of St Jude’s Research Hospital, I was excited about the prospect of seeing some of my favorite artists all in a fairly intimate setting. Cam’s ‘Burning House’ is one of my very favorite songs of the year so far, and Jon Pardi’s debut album and B-Sides completely won me as a big fan. A Thousand Horses were more tricky since they are one of those bands who seem very moulded into something wholly commercial, and hence less authentic. Eli Young Band I’m going to admit, were not on the list of artists I wanted to see. Lee Brice however was, and I am quite a fan of many of his songs, and it was his inclusion that really made me want to go.
Cam kicked off the show, and was charming and excellent throughout. Whilst I was largely unfamiliar with many of her songs, this wasn’t a huge problem since they were very listener-friendly, and with only half an hour to play, there was no chance of boredom setting in (that is if some of the ‘fans’ there were even listening rather than losing themselves in their tenth can of beer).
Likewise, Jon Pardi was a very solid performer, beginning his set with 3 brand new songs, which understandably didn’t particularly excite the audience too much, but I was quite impressed by the sound he is pursuing, being less catchy than his first album but similarly styled. Following these songs with ‘Trash A Hotel Room’, ‘What I Can’t Put Down’ and ‘When I’ve Been Drinking’ was predictable, but very welcome since for the first time the crowd started to engage with the performers on stage.
A Thousand Horses followed these musically fantastic sets with a really entertaining, yet bewildering show. Appearing with a 7-piece band and 3 backup singers, they were decked out for a large sound, yet they produced a show that I would have left a The Cadillac Three concert being disappointed by, even though they only appear as a trio. Having said that, they were good, and it was easy to tell that some of their songs, such as ‘Smoke’ and ‘(This Ain’t No) Drunk Dial’ were pushed by Big Machine since they were much poppier than the others, which were tilted more towards Southern Rock, albeit in a more tame way than I would have liked.
I’m not going to write much about Eli Young Band, because frankly I really didn’t like their set. Their songs were the definition of bland, as was their stage presence, and I was just using their set to bridge the gap to Lee Brice. Having said that, the audience were very into them, being vocally supportive, even when they performed the god-awful remix of that Andy Grammer song.
Having said that I was bridging the gap to Lee Brice, I expected him to meet my expectations. It was symptomatic of his set that by the end an incredibly packed concert space in the parking lot of the bar was only half full. Yes, the headliner was good enough to lose the interest of over half the audience. Beginning with ‘Drinking Class’ which I think is a great song, he ruined it by talking most of the lines to the crowd. The set didn’t get much better, and at one point there was a huge drum solo (very impressive admittedly) with a dub step backing. Why on earth was that included in the set? It would have been laughable if I hadn’t been bitterly disappointed in Lee’s show. To cap things off, even ‘I Drive Your Truck’, one of the most lyrically rich and emotionally deep songs of the last few years was just atmospherically flat. I could have gone to any honky-tonk in Nashville and seen a better performance.
I don’t regret going to the concert, because Cam, Jon Pardi and A Thousand Horses were well worth seeing. I’m just disappointed in Lee Brice, because I like him and his songs. I hope this was a bad show and a one off, but I won’t be paying money to see him again to find out.