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Hit singles do wonders for Luke Bryan

Paradise, Boston, December 11, 2008

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

Other recent concert reviews
Getting a big hit right out of the starting blocks can do wonders for a career. Just ask Luke Bryan as he is almost done with his 180-date slew of dates for the year probably thanks in large part to his first single, the very catchy All My Friends Say.

That's not to say that Bryan is a one-hit wonder as evidenced by garnering a second top 10 song, Country Boy.

But whether he will be an artist with staying power was not answered by this concert, drawing a solid crowd of about 500, mainly young, people. Bryan comes off like a number of other country singers these days. There's probably just enough country in the sound - fiddle more than anything else in his case (his band also included pedal steel, but that never could be heard in the mix) - to keep him part of the country scene or for what passes for it these days.

But the warning signals for country traditionalists went up immediately before anyone in the band even hit the stage. The drum kit was surrounded by something seen far far more often at rock shows - clear panels surrounding the front of the drum set. And predictably the drummer was pounding away at the get go. Bryan's vocals could not be heard with the guitar making it sound like this was rock show, not a country show.

The mix quickly improved though with Bryan's vocals taking on fare more of a prominent role. The Georgian's vocals are adequate, but he doesn't tend to convey a strong sense of ownership of the songs. He does a good job on the more anthemic, uptempo songs like his hit singles. Bryan played one new song from an album due in 2009, Welcome to the Farm, which had a driving sound and came across as being in line with what he has already recorded.

When it came to covers, Bryan didn't do a whole lot to make Alabama's Mountain Music or John Anderson's (he bears a vocal resemblance to Anderson, though Bryan is far less twangy) Money in the Bank his own. And while he at least played country covers, how to explain including a few lines of Metallica's Enter Sandman during his catchy take on All My Friends Say. Interestingly, he ended the 95-minute show, which sometimes felt a bit too long, with the encore cover of Brooks & Dunn's Play Something Country. Despite references to "I'm a George Strait junkie" and Patsy Cline, most would find nothing country musically at all about the song.

Too bad also that Bryan didn't save room for his take on Chuck Berry's Run Run Rudolph, which he just released online this week. He does a very good job on the song, and it seemingly would have been the perfect closer.

Bryan, an affable sort, clearly was appreciative of the reception he received in his first trip to Boston with the crowd often singing along. A hit song can achieve that.