Luke Bryan delivered a slew of hits and a brief but satisfying preview of his upcoming album, What Makes You Country, during part of Pandora’s “Up Close With Luke Bryan” concert on Wednesday night in New York. The chart-topping singer and new American Idol judge took the stage in support of his sixth studio album, set for release on Friday via Capitol Records Nashville.
Hundreds of fans lined the surrounding blocks of Manhattan’s chichi Altman Building, waiting in the cold for hours in advance to ensure entry to the performance. Although it was open to the public, capacity was limited to the first few hundred people, which only enhanced the exclusive essence of the concert for the lucky few that gained access, while creating a tense excitement and uncertainty outside for those who were late to the party.
Inside and untouched by the chaos in the cold, Bryan and his eight-piece band were all smiles, flashing through a multitude of mostly hits and touching on only three tracks from his new album. This agreed with the crowd though, as the cheers surged on favorites like “That’s My Kind of Night,” instantly sweeping the room with a college bar feel, and “Play It Again,” which began with Bryan grabbing a fan’s phone and taking a video selfie through the first verse before enticing an entire crowd of New Yorkers to join him in a fervent final call-and-response chorus.
“Kick the Dust Up” rendered a lot of stomping overtop a banjo riff electrified by multi-instrumentalist Dave Ristrim, who also lent some surprising sonic textures to “Rain Is a Good Thing,” which showed the band flexing their muscles on an extended instrumental bridge whose primeval pedal-driven layers carried the heft of a Mannheim Steamroller arrangement. This was merely gasoline on an already fiery crowd, prompting one fan to throw a stuffed Chihuahua at Bryan, who deftly caught the gift with his non-microphone hand before murmuring, “I’m gonna sleep…