Country Comes to Town

Toby Keith’s “Live in Overdrive” on August 10th, 2012 was my first country music concert. I went with my wife and met up with some friends out on the lawn. The outside venue is the San Manuel Amphitheater where I have seen a number of other shows. It seems as though in the late 90s and mid 00s more big names were attracted to it, and now (although not for much longer) there’s the Gibson Amphitheater and of course Irvine Meadows. But San Bernardino is our backyard so I prefer attending shows there. Of course being outside is nice during the summer and we bought lawn seats because they were pretty cheap. I really didn’t care where I sat; I just really wanted to go!

Personally I’m glad Toby was my first country concert! He’s a big name, has a huge catalogue of songs, and tons of hits. Just prior I had purchased one of his complications of 35 hits. 10 months later I know his songs better than I did when I heard them in concert, but it really didn’t matter with this guy. He really does put on a show. The back of the stage was set up to look like a giant juke box that incorporated the video screen. There were a lot of lights and lasers, and he used a ramp that went out into the crowd. I love all this stuff because it is so rock n roll, and that’s the kind of show I’m used to seeing. Bands like Van Halen, Def Leppard, Aerosmith all put on huge shows. They also filmed his performance of his newest single “I Like Girls That Drink Beer” to make into a video.

Now on to the crowd. On the surface the audience really wasn’t that much different than that of a rock show. When we found our spot on the lawn we just sat on a blanket like almost everyone else. When we arrived there really weren’t a lot of people up there and I wasn’t even sure the lawn would fill up so I figured we’d be safe on the blanket all night. Boy was I wrong! That huge lawn was completed filled with drunken party animals by the time Toby hit the stage. The crowd moved a lot and eventually we of course had to stand up, but got away with sitting down sometimes too because the gals in front of us were sitting in lawn chairs. But I was actually taken back by the number of people around and how much they were moving. The big difference is that these country people, although drunk and definitely not mellow, were not hostile. I began to worry about our safety with all those people but they really did surprise me.

I think that is the biggest difference between a rock and country audience. Yeah, I’m sure there are fights and hostile people at any concert or large gathering like that, but you’d think we would have seen something with the number of people that were around us or walked by. To me this is a prime example how country music is about “community” or even “family”. A family between the artists and the audience, and this is something the rock community does not have, at least not to this degree. Country musicians sing about this kind of thing and project it back to their audiences.

Another example of how country concerts have a family feel to them is the opening acts. Brantley Gilbert opened for Toby Keith. I had no idea who he was when we saw him but I noticed everyone else around us knew the words to his songs! I’ve never seen this before at any of the rock concerts I’ve been do. Later I learned who Brantley is; the man is and was all over country radio. I think it is amazing how a huge name like Toby Keith has an opening act that also had current hits. It wasn’t a co-headlining tour and Toby certainly did not need Brantley to draw in crowds. My second country concert also had an opening act with a number 1 song on the radio. I think it is awesome that the bigger names in the industry open their arms to artists that can’t quite headline their own tours yet. I’ve read numerous times where so and so helped so and so by taking them out on tour. Usually it seems like it’s the other way around where the point of the opening act is for them to be an unknown that is trying to build an audience.

I’m glad my wife and I went to see Toby Keith last summer, it was the perfect concert setting, and I definitely intend on seeing a lot more shows.