Billy Currington has such a laid-back way about music it’s easy to forget how many memorable hits he has had.
Sweating through a muggy Saturday night at Battery Park (he was the headliner for the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino’s first Country Fest), he brought those story songs but also wowed with his bluesy approach to cuts like “Let Me Down Easy.”
Given a fairly big stage show (considering he wore jeans, sneakers and a T-shirt), he matched the banks of moving lights with a voice that could scale the Hard Rock’s heights.
Hardly as kinetic as some of today’s young singers (Thomas Rhett comes quickly to mind), Currington let his embraceable voice do the jumping. His latest, “Do I Make You Wanna,” tips its hat to the trend toward country rap but doesn’t abandon the high notes that brought him.
“People Are Crazy,” the ultimate BC song, touches on all his strengths. Saturday, the 43-year-old Georgian gave it everything fans could want. He scored points, too, with “Pretty Good at Drinkin’ Beer,” proving he’s not a trendsetter, but someone who knows how to tap into a common desire for the simple things in life.
Currington’s shirt was so soaked it looked like he had just gotten off a long day at work. Luckily, he maintained his cool demeanor throughout the evening.
Because opener Chase Rice has written for and played with so many country acts it’s not always easy to get a similar grasp of his sound.
Because he co-wrote “Cruise” for Florida Georgia Line (and performed it with a hard rock edge Saturday night), there’s a tendency to think he’s another bro country guy. But a new song – “Three Chords and the Truth” – could separate him from the pack and give him a place of his own – between the hard rockers and the new country. It has that kind of honesty Eric Church has parlayed into a big, big career.
Tipping his hat to plenty of acts he opened for, Rice rolled through hits by Tim McGraw, Kenny Chesney and Dierks Bentley. He also tried a little Luke Bryan while serenading a crew member’s fiancée.
The covers relied a lot on audience buy-in.
The Rice hits, though, showed a different Chase – a strutting, stage-caged singer. Three guitarists did a lot of rock moves (one even wore a Metallica T-shirt) and offered up covers of their own.
While Rice had sound problems in the beginning, he got on track by “Gonna Wanna Tonight” and “Ready Set Roll.”
An eager performer, Rice has a halo effect, one that makes it easy for others to follow. He teed it up for Currington, who landed closest to the hole.
The day-long Country Fest opened with Filmore, Michael Tyler and Whiskey Myers. The sun was beating during their time on stage but cooled down for the final two. A hot day of hot country? Yeah. Yeah.
The concept is a good one – one that Hard Rock could turn into a whole weekend next year. Any takers?