Monday, October 27, 2014

Luke Bryan, Lee Brice, Cole Swindell concert review: Hollywood, Calif.

photo by Drew A. Kelly
A version of my review appeared at

Luke Bryan's first appeared on country radio in 2007 with his top 5 charter, "All My Friends Say." Saturday night, he performed with two such pals, who also just happened to be the opening acts.    

Cole Swindell assisted during a spirited “This Is How We Roll,” the No. 1 single they co-wrote with Florida Georgia Line and the pair comfortably worked both sides of the Hollywood Bowl stage.

Over the weekend in SoCal, Bryan finished his latest mammoth tour in support of 2013’s double platinum-selling “Crash My Party.”
Launched in January, the jaunt – primarily with Swindell and Lee Brice – encompassed three stadiums. Bryan and Brice also played at last spring’s Stagecoach Festival in Indio, Calif. Meanwhile, the “Party” album has spawned five Top 10 country singles.

At the Bowl, some fans held up colorful signs; others wore bright attire (one man was spotted in a sparkly confederate flag vest). 

Once the lights went down, orchestral music and blaring rock guitars heightened the anticipation level. An introductory scene featured Bryan shooting a flaming arrow. It proved to be an apt illustration for the sold-out gig, in which he hit the bull’s-eye with a high-energy 18-song performance that was basically wall-to-wall hits (“Roller Coaster,” “Play It Again,” “Do I,” “Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye”) and provided plenty of hip-shaking heat (“That’s My Kind of Night,” “Rain is a Good Thing”) for the ladies.

Bryan’s top-notch production values and band ably held fans' attention. Even an extended segment during which he impressively played piano didn’t appear to prompt a massive exodus.

Standouts included a good-natured duet with Lee Brice on “Crazy Girl” (which the opening act penned for Eli Young Band and joined Bryan for a swig of tequila), their feisty pairing on Alabama’s “Mountain Music,” the reflective pedal steel-infused “We Rode in Trucks,” a dramatic “Drink a Beer” (Bryan sat on a makeshift picket fence strumming acoustic guitar as gorgeous swamp imagery was projected behind him) and the appropriately hyper main set closer, “I Don’t Want This Night to End.” The latter found both Bryan and fans jumping around amid the usual segue into Taio Cruz’s “Dynamite.”

photo by Joseph Lanes
Backed by a six-piece band including an organ player and percussionist, Brice’s 45-minute set featured plenty of hard rock flourishes and a needless drum solo. “Parking Lot Party” delivered a rowdy vibe, later heightened by the simple sentiment of the bluesy, harmonica-driven “Beer.” Then Brice chugged down a can. 

Yet the burly denim clad singer fared best when he downshifted into more soulful territory on “Hard to Love,” got closer to the audience for sensitive ballad “A Woman Like You” and a passionate “I Drive Your Truck” (all three went to No.1; the latter saw fans hoist an American flag).

The conversational relationship advice of “Love Like Crazy” saw him nail its wailing chorus with ease. “Drinking Class,” an inspiring ode to the working man, also struck a strong chord with the crowd. Backdrop screen images of smokestacks, blue collar welders, etc., was a nice touch.

Returning for an encore, Brice dedicated recent heartfelt chart topper "I Don't Dance" to his wife and started it solo before his band carefully joined it. After the uplifting delivery, he truly looked touched by the enthusiastic response.

photo by George A. Paul
Like Bryan, the 31-year-old Swindell also hails from Georgia and is an alumni of the same college and fraternity.

He once handled tour merchandise for Bryan and has co-written several songs that the country superstar recorded ("Beer in the Headlights," "Roller Coaster" among others).

Obviously pleased to be on such a legendary stage like the Hollywood Bowl, Swindell started the solid 25-minute performance with an upbeat and fun "Hey Y'All."

An affable presence throughout, Swindell asked if anyone knew how to do 12 ounce curls before "Brought to You By Beer" (a reference to the song's lyrics). Cowgirls near the front of the stage danced along to “Get Me Some of That,” which the singer penned for Thomas Rhett. 

Swindell's own hit songs from his 2014 self-titled debut album like “Hope You Get Lonely Tonight” (dedicated to our troops serving overseas), “Let Me See Ya Girl” (featuring a soaring chorus) and closer “Chillin’ It” went over mighty well with early arrivals.

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