Venue: Huntington Center
City: Toledo, OH
Date: February 18, 2016
Review and Photographs by: Todd "Toddstar" Jolicoeur (www.toddstarphotography.com)
One of the hottest artists in Country music over the last couple of years is Brantley Gilbert. Still out supporting his 2014 release Just As I Am, Gilbert is criss-crossing the country on The Blackout Tour with special guests up and comers Canaan Smith and Michael Ray, who both happen to be touring to behind label debut releases, as well and singer-songwriter Brian Davis. This hot package rolled through Toledo, OH and made a stop at Huntington Center on Thursday evening. With each moment that passed from the time the doors opened until the lights went out on the first performer, the crowd was ready for the blackout to begin...
Singer-Songwriter Brian Davis kicked the show off with an acoustic set and set the pace for the evening. Armed with cool songs, an acoustic guitar, a red solo cup, and a smile, Davis entertained the sold-out venue. While playing songs off of his iTunes only releases, Brian also let everybody know which songs off of the latest release of Gilbert's he co-wrote, including a couple songs from tonight's headlining performance.
Next up was Michael Ray, supporting his 2015 released self-titled debut. With full band in tow, Ray played songs from the disc, including the two singles released - "Kiss You In The Morning" and "Real Men Love Jesus." Additionally, a song he co-wrote with John Rich, "Run Away With You" was part of tonight's setlist, as well other tracks. Other than the hits, a cover of David Lee Murphy's "Dust On The Bottle" went over well and Ray's own "Drivin' All Night" got stuck in my head and actually prompted me to run over to the merch stand and pick up the disc for my own collection. As his time on stage ended, he was smiling, signing autographs from the stage, and taking selfies with audience members phones.
Canaan Smith also released his label debut in 2015, with Bronco. Several of the songs on that release made it into tonight's show. As he played his guitar and sang his heart out, his songs were well received by the crowd. Smith and his band moved seamlessly through his set tossing in six songs from the release, including "Love You Like That" and "Hole In The Bottle", which are the first two singles released from Bronco. Utilizing the lighting and stage to accentuate his set, he pieced together a show that flowed from one song to the next and showcased not only the songs on the disc, but his talent as a songwriter and singer. Treating the audience to a bonus near the end of his set, Smith merged the bonus track "Fire" with a great cover of the Goo Goo Dolls classic "Iris."
With anticipation filling the air and a party atmosphere settling over the capacity crowd, the moments were ticking away to when Brantley Gilbert would assume his spot center stage and take us through 90-minutes of great music - a little bit country tossed together with a little bit rock and roll and topped off with just enough smiles and crowd interaction to deliver a killer show. With a platinum album - Halfway To Heaven (2010) - and another approaching platinum status (less than 50,000 to go) - Just As I Am (2014), Gilbert rushed the stage after an intro video and treated his fans to "Read Me My Rights," a bonus track off his latest release. Pulling all but two songs in tonight's show from his biggest discs, the night was filled with singles and hits. Shifting to the 2010 release Brantley and band rocked through "Hell On Wheels" and set the pace for the next few songs. Grabbing a guitar and playing on several of the songs, Gilbert showed off his vocals and his six-string abilities. A trend of one to two songs from each releases alternating back and forth kept the setlist fun and tight. An acoustic pairing of "Them Boys" and Hank Williams, Jr.'s "Outlaw Women" broke up the set and led into a cool rendition of "Small Town Throwdown" which featured Canaan Smith and Michael Ray. Two tracks written or co-written by Gilbert and made hits by Jason Aldean - "Dirt Road Anthem" and "My Kinda Party" - were also a part of tonight's rocking set; the latter being the only song played tonight that came from the singers debut release Modern Day Prodigal Son. The totally rocking "My Baby's Guns N' Roses" demonstrated the singers love for rock and roll and his bands ability to play it. Other songs from Halfway To Heaven that popped up tonight included singles "Kickin' It In The Sticks," "Country Must Be Country Wide," and the bonus track ballad "You Don't Know Her Like I Do." One song I noticed missing from tonight's show was gold-certified single "My Kind Of Crazy." Closing the show with the #1 single "Bottoms Up" from Just As I Am, Brantley brought down the house just before the house lights came up. Other songs played from the disc included his other #1 "One Hell Of An Amen," which he dedicated to a couple groups, including the military, and his most recent single, "Stone Cold Sober." Gilbert and his band are continuing the party all summer long when they head out with friends Justin Moore and Colt Ford on the Take It Outside Tour. Do yourself a favor and pick up a ticket to catch what is sure to be one of the best shows all year.
Complete set of BRANTLEY GILBERT show photos HERE
Setlist: Read Me My Rights - Hell On Wheels - If You Want A Bad Boy - Dirt Road Anthem - Stone Cold Sober - My Kinda Party - My Baby's Guns N' Roses - That Was Us - You Don't Know Her Like I Do - Country Must Be Country Wide - Grown Ass Man - Them Boys - Outlaw Women - Small Town Throwdown - One Hell Of An Amen - Take It Outside - Kick It In the Sticks - Bottoms Up
BRANTLEY GILBERT LINKS:
Complete set of CANAAN SMITH show photos HERE
CANAAN SMITH LINKS:
Complete set of MICHAEL RAY show photos HERE
MICHAEL RAY LINKS:
Complete set of BRIAN DAVIS show photos HERE
BRIAN DAVIS LINKS: