I adore a country concert. The people, the songs, the (ahem) drinking — all of those things combine for an experience I crave every year as soon as summer rolls around. And the California Mid-State Fair is usually where I get my fill.
This year, I went to the Justin Moore concert on Friday and let me tell you, it was exactly what I wanted: A no-muss, no-fuss country concert.
Let’s start with the elephant in the room — the crowd was dismal. Not in terms of energy. The audience members were as loud and boisterous as any good country audience. There were just so few of them.
Even when Moore took the stage later in the night, the stadium was probably only about half full, with a bunch of people down in the front next to the stage and some filling the back stands. But there was virtually no one in the side bleachers or the back rows.
It could be that neither Moore nor his opening act, Joe Nichols, have much name recognition. I’ll readily admit that I had forgotten that most of their songs were theirs until I heard them that night.
But I also think part of the problem could have been that most of the people who would have bought tickets to Moore, probably held off and bought Blake Shelton tickets instead — making Shelton’s Saturday concert the fair’s first sold-out show this year.
But neither of the singers let the small size of the crowd phase them. They delivered performances just as big as if they were performing to a packed stadium.
The night started off with Nichols, swinging pretty quickly through most of his more well-known songs. There were two notable moments for me:
Nichols sang Sir-Mix-A-Lot’s “Baby Got Back” as a country song, and it worked — really well. The chorus to that song is exactly on point with most of the “bro country” songs these days, so I was pretty excited when he said that cover was going to be on his next album. I’m not ashamed to say I’ll probably buy it.
Also, Nichols did a cheesy move that I wish all performers would do. While singing his by-far most popular song, “Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off,” he actually got down off the stage and walked through the floor seats. And not just throught the front row.
He walked almost all the way to the back of the section, where it meets the bleachers. I love that sort of move, because it gave the people in the back a chance to see him up close —and gave everyone in those floor seats some excellent selfies. So kudos to him for that.
Then it was time for Moore.
He started the night off with a fun moment; one of his roadies danced on stage while appearing to set things up, then cracked a beer signaling the start of Moore’s “Point At You.” From there, Moore moved through a light-filled bass-pumping concert that had everyone cheering and singing along for most of the night.
His drinking songs — “You Look Like A Need a Drink” and “Beer Time” — did really well, of course, as did his odes to country living: “Bait a Hook,” “Backwoods,” “Small Town Throwdown” and “One Dirt Road.”
One thing really struck me was Moore’s fantastic country voice. I don’t think I’d really realized it before this.
At one point in the night, he stopped to do an acoustic performance of a few lines from some of his favorite ballads off of his albums, and boy almighty did he croon those to his heart’s content — and to the delight of all of the women in the audience. I mean, wow. Moore hits high notes I can’t even begin to dream of.
I’m also not ashamed to admit I cried like a baby during “If Heaven Wasn’t So Far Away.” Big, huge crocodile tears.
My one problem with Moore’s concert were the three encores he did before singing “Small Town USA” — arguably his biggest hit —at the end of the night. By that time, I had to go to the bathroom, my best friend’s legs were going to sleep and half of the audience had already stumbled out of the stadium.
That aside, the overall experience was a great one: a straight-forward country concert that I would definitely see again.