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Being the band scheduled to follow the Rolling Stones is kind of like being the second guy to step on the moon – a second banana doomed to anonymity. That is, unless you are Florida Georgia Line, the country duo that thrilled a filled-to-capacity Marcus Amphitheater on Wednesday, the official opening night of Summerfest 2015.
Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley are a red-hot country act, complete with a tight band of two guitars, a drummer, a keyboard player and a bassist – not to mention a mantel filled with all kinds of awards.
Everybody knows what a rock and roll band is. But who knows, these days, what a country music act is? This band is somewhere between mainstream country, like Alabama, and the English metal of Def Leppard. And they are probably closer to the latter.
But make no mistake about it, this is an act that had the jam-packed arena rocking from the first moment. The crowd was heavy on country girls with the kind of budget straw cowboy hats you can get at State Fair, vinyl boots that are probably making millions for some Chinese vinyl shop and tattered blue jean shorts. And they danced with abandon and sang every word to every song from start to finish.
The most interesting thing about Hubbard and Kelley is that not every song sounds the same. It’s not four chords, verse, verse, chorus and then another verse. They have songs that have some variety in subject matter, tempo and music arrangement. And that’s a real rarity in today’s male country music singers. I’m not sure I ever heard about a truck, beer, summer or a river all night long.
The show is heavily produced, and personally I could do without all the shots of smoke and the light show that battled with the fireworks on the Summerfest grounds. But as rehearsed as this band obviously is, it clearly convinces anyone watching that it is having a ball onstage.
And that kind of enthusiasm is very contagious. I was sitting behind two girls who could barely stand still so consumed were they with the show. And they were the rule, not the exception.
Both Hubbard and Kelley show a heavy Christian music influence. The early songs that Kelley wrote were inspired by the Christian rock group Casting Crowns. Hubbard was a church worship leader in his teens, and the two met at Belmont College while in a worship group.
Their Christian music influences can be heard in their music today, with many of the songs having the kind of anthemic arrangement so common in contemporary religious-influenced music.
But there is other stuff, like "Stay," a very interesting love song about the mistakes that a man can make that end up driving a woman away. Meanwhile, one of their big hits, "Sippin’ On Fire," is a highly charged love song about the dangers and pitfalls that can threaten any relationship.
Following a band like the Rolling Stones is not a great position to find yourself in, but Florida Georgia Line came through with just as much excitement as the greatest rock and roll band in history.
It was a great kickoff to 11 days of Summerfest.
1. Every Night
2. It'z Just What We Do
3. Round Here
4. Anything Goes
5. Get Your Shine On
6. Bumpin' the Night
7. Sippin' On Fire
8. Dayum, Baby
10. Like You Ain't Even Gone
12. This is How We Roll
13. Sun Daze
14. Party People
15. Friends in Low Places
With a history in Milwaukee stretching back decades, Dave tries to bring a unique perspective to his writing, whether it's sports, politics, theater or any other issue.
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