Tuesday night’s concert with Hunter Hayes and The Band Perry at the California Mid-State Fair was two distinct shows in one.
The first half was your standard country fare with cutie pie/boy-next-door Hayes showing off his musical skills while a besotted audience oohed and aahed.
The second half, a pop/country mash-up as The Band Perry — partway through a crossover transformation — played a more stylized concert featuring their past country hits, new pop album and some fantastically fun covers for good measure.
Basically, it was everything I could have wanted.
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It was clear Hayes assumed he was the D.O. (designated opener): “Thank you all for coming out here early to see us!” he said several times throughout his set.
But he was selling himself short.
Though he may not have had the drama of the later performers, Hayes delivered the fun and lighthearted show I was expecting, breezing through hits like “I Want Crazy,” “Invisible” and “Wanted.” He laughed, he played, he pulled faces. It was awesome.
Then came The Band Perry, and dang it was good.
I had the pleasure of seeing them the last time they were at the fair, when they opened for Rascal Flatts in 2013. During that performance, I remember how impressed I was with the energy. Compared with last night, they were practically sloths at that first performance.
It started with a bang — the siblings all standing center stage stomping their feet in sync as the opening chords of “Better Dig Two” thumped over the loudspeakers.
Right off the bat, this performance was more stylized and 10,000 times more dramatic than I expected ... AND I LOVED IT SO MUCH.
The trio, made up of siblings Kimberly Perry (lead singer), Reid Perry (bass guitar) and Neil Perry (mandolin), never stopped. There was running across the stage. There was instrument throwing. On more than one occasion they pulled out some choreography that I was later practicing in the parking lot.
Despite the band’s new vibe (their upcoming album “My Bad Imagination” is being marketed as its first pop album) they still stayed true to those country favorites that made me love them in the first place. “When I Die Young” was simple and beautiful; “All Your Life” was still a sweet love song; and “Chainsaw” still rocked my socks.
That’s not to say their new stuff wasn’t awesome: I hadn’t realized how much of a banger “Live Forever” was until hearing it at full volume, and I can’t wait for some of their as-yet unreleased songs off the album to make it onto my playlists.
But the peak of the entire night was their rendition of Queen’s “Fat Bottomed Girls” that had at least one overly enthusiastic audience member shaking his moneymaker on camera for the whole world to see, before being escorted away.
To sum up: Hayes was fun, The Band Perry wild; and I loved every second of it.