Luke Combs‘ World Tour lasts into October, but Saturday night’s (April 15) show at Nissan Stadium in Nashville may have been the most important date.
Even those already convinced he’ll win the ACM Entertainer of the Year raised an eyebrow when he doubled down with a second show at the 50,000-plus seat venue. That’s a legacy act move, and Combs — though a two-time CMA Entertainer of the Year — is still in the formative stages of his career.
This was the singer’s chance to prove he’d leveled up from the arena tour he brought to town several years ago, but he’d need a little luck to do it.
Fortunately, Combs may — as his fan-favorite song suggests — have a five-leaf clover in his pocket. Scheduling a pair of outdoor shows during April in Nashville is a dodgy weather bet, but the warm breeze blowing from end zone to stage allowed this packed show to feel like a summer festival, and that’s never a bad thing. After a short introduction video that reminded fans (and the many invited ACM voters) of his fraught journey and accomplishments, the 33-year-old took to center stage for back-to-back bangers, “Lovin’ On You” and “Hannah Ford Road.”
It all seemed too easy after that.
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Combs’ stage presence is difficult to describe without leaving skeptics even more skeptical. He fills the stage but never seems to be working all that hard to get your attention. You’ll never find the him sprinting down the catwalk or dodging pyrotechnics. If he ever pandered to the audience by sticking his microphone out to let the crowd sing a bar or two, we must have been at the concession. Instead, he paced back and forth across the football field-width stage, much like an NFL coach would up and down the sidelines. If he were to wear a Fitbit we’d know that country music’s leader in consecutive No. 1 hits also leads the format in steps.
This night brought no frills, no gimmicks and no real surprises. Combs’ goal was to provide the hits as fans know them, and he over-delivered with a live vocal performance as good as any male singer in country music (Nissan Stadium acoustics aside). This may not be the sexiest way to describe a concert, but the night was consistent and professional.
Opening act Riley Green joined Combs for “Does To Me” and Lainey Wilson shared the stage for his song “Outrunnin’ Your Memory.” The band got some love during a three-song cover set that included two ’90s country hits and a Bruno Mars song that went over much better than one would figure out of a Diamond Rio song (see the full set list below).
The momentum of most shows reflects the ups and downs of a roller coaster but this set ratcheted up the excitement to a thrilling eight-song conclusion. Beginning with “Hurricane,” the mood changed — equate it to that first car of the coaster going over the initial drop. The singer and his audience roared along with “1,2 Many,” “When It Rains It Pours” and “Beer Never Broke My Heart.”
“Better Together” proved to be a perfect way to reset the mood for an encore that would close with a cover of Brooks & Dunn‘s “Brand New Man.”
It’s worth noting who made up this audience. Luke Combs’ fans are not a monolith. The four groups of fans surrounding our reporter included a trio of senior citizens, a group of teenagers, two twenty-something lovers that just could not keep their hands or lips off one another (it was kinda cute, but perhaps not for the trio of seniors whose stage view was blocked by the PDA) and a Black woman who’d attended with her friend, a white man in a fishing shirt like the one Combs wears. It’d be a stretch to call the Nissan Stadium crowd a diverse audience, but one didn’t have to look far for BIPOC representation and no single demographic dominated the beer line.
There wasn’t a consensus opinion or even interest in social politics either. Earlier in the night, Green swapped out “Bud Light” for “Busch Light” in the chorus of “I Wish Grandpas Never Died” and a section of fans cheered (although their motive was unclear, since Bud Light and Busch Light are owned by the same, under-fire company). During subsequent versus he stuck to “Bud Light” and fans sang that with even more enthusiasm.
Could the secret to selling over 100,000 concert tickets in a country music town be promising a solid show with no strife? It almost seems too easy.
Luke Combs’ World Tour Setlist, April 15 @ Nissan Stadium In Nashville
1. “Lovin’ On You”
2. “Hannah Ford Road”
3. “Cold As You”
4. “One Number Away”
5. “Love You Anyway”
6. “Going Going Gone”
7. “Refrigerator Door”
8. “Growin’ Up and Gettin’ Old”
9. “Does To Me” (with Riley Green)
10. “Forever After All”
11. “Dust On the Bottle” (originally by David Lee Murphy, band feature)
12. “Meet In the Middle” (originally by Diamond Rio, band feature)
13. “When I Was Your Man” (originally by Bruno Mars, band feature)
14. “Beautiful Crazy”
15. “Where the Wild Things Are”
16. Outrunnin’ Your Memory” (with Lainey Wilson)
17. “Fast Car”
18. “5 Leaf Clover”
19. “Houston, We Got a Problem”
20. “She Got the Best of Me”
22. “Must’ve Never Met You”
23. “1,2 Many”
24. “When It Rains It Pours”
25. “Beer Never Broke My Heart”
26. “Better Together”
27. “The Kind of Love We Make”
28. “Brand New Man” (originally by Brooks & Dunn)
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