Monday, August 8, 2016

Hunter Hayes, Cassadee Pope concert review: Costa Mesa, Calif.

photo: Bill Alkofer/OC Register
During the latest episode of guitarist documentary series “Ernie Ball’s The Pursuit of Tone,” Hunter Hayes discusses formative music influences like Stevie Ray Vaughan, John Mayer and Garth Brooks.

On Friday night at Pacific Amphitheatre, the first two artists were definitely evident in Hayes’ playing style, while the last came through loud and clear in his ability to make a near capacity crowd feel right at home.

If a list of best guitarists under 25 was compiled today, Hayes would be toward the top. Throughout the 100-minute set in Costa Mesa, he often switched between various axes.

The Louisiana native began the concert proceedings with an extended intro to “Storm Warning.” Once audience recognition kicked in, loud shrieks were heard from the heavily young female contingent – some of which held up brightly colored signs.

Hayes tweaked various songs (an epic “Everybody’s Got Somebody But Me”; the George Benson-styled flair of “Somebody’s Heartbreak”) and often went straight into the next one without pause. The exuberant “Tattoo,” with its sprightly mandolin melody and the stately should’ve-been-a-big-hit “Where it All Begins” (a Lady Antebellum pairing on “The 21 Project”) were early standouts.

Having been in the studio working on his next album lately, Hayes said he was anxious to try out some new songs live. “Living Between the Lines,” about dismissing expectations, was soulful. The guitarist asked “can we jam a bit?” and put his whole body into the solo.

Dramatic breakup ballad “Tell Me” saw Hayes backed by piano. The upbeat “Yesterday’s Song” was promising, while final unreleased tune “Amen” featured prominent organ and spiritually tinged lyrics.

Opening act Cassadee Pope joined to duet with Hayes at the keyboards for “Invisible” and raised the ballad’s intensity to another level. After multiple slow tempos, the pace fortunately picked up for the final stretch, including the effusive and life affirming “21,” a high energy rock cover of Walk the Moon’s “Shut Up and Dance” (on which fans were dancing), the energized “I Want Crazy” and finale “Love Makes Me.”

photo: Bill Alkofer/OC Register
Pope warmed up early arrivals at the Pacific with a pleasant 40-minute set that comprised her 2013 debut album “Frame by Frame” and new EP “Summer.”

Clad in black high heeled boots, “The Voice” show winner’s slick country pop occasionally recalled Carrie Underwood when she did some soaring vocals (hit single “Wasting All These Tears”; “I Wish I Could Break Your Heart”).

But the strongest moments came when Pope sang “Think of You” (with a tour guitarist subbing for Chris Young on the country chart topping duet) and while all alone on acoustic guitar for “The Voice” favorite take on Keith Urban’s “Stupid Boy.”

My review originally appeared at

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