Preview: Country superstar Luke Bryan brings his tour to First Niagara Pavilion



It looks like Luke Bryan and Zac Brown won't be touring together any time soon.

The latter declared in a recent radio interview that "That's My Kind of Night," the latest Bryan single, is "the worst song I ever heard."

He prefaced that by saying, "I love Luke Bryan and he's had some great songs," and finished the thought with, "I see it being giant commercially, successful within what is called country music these days, but I also feel like that the people deserve something better than that."

Luke Bryan

With: Florida Georgia Line, Thompson Square.

Where: First Niagara Pavilion, near Burgettstown.

When: 7 p.m. Saturday.

Tickets: $25-$50; www.ticketmaster.com.

Perhaps, but Luke Bryan is clearly giving the people what they want. Another No. 1 hit written by a committee of Nashville ringers, it's just like dozens of cliched country songs. He's got a truck, some beer, a girl with a skirt and boots, and he's taking out her out to the backwoods to catch a catfish before he lays her down and loves her right. Hopefully, he has some Purell, too.

Just to cover all the bases, he's a got a mixtape with "a Little Conway [Twitty], a little T-Pain," as if anybody would ever do that. There's a little hip-hop in the beat to make it more convincing.

The song, which is going to turn up in the first third of his set Saturday night at First Niagara Pavilion, is the second single from his fourth album, "Crash My Party." It debuted at No. 1 in August and had the third best debut of the year, behind Justin Timberlake's "The 20/20 Experience" and Jay-Z's "Magna Carta ... The Holy Grail."

Mr. Bryan, a 36-year-old Georgia native who broke out of Nashville in 2007, has been on a roll since going to the top of the country singles charts in 2010 with "Rain Is a Good Thing," which, over banjo and steel guitars, explained the benefits of precipitation: "Rain makes corn, corn makes whiskey/Whiskey makes my baby feel a little frisky."

Since then, the country star has packaged four more country No. 1 singles, including "Somebody Else Is Calling You Baby" and "Drunk of You," a PG-13-rated, feel-good summertime anthem from his third album, "Tailgates & Tanlines," that put him on the Hot 100 Singles map, going to No. 16.

The new album has been the expected commercial smash, although not a big hit with critics.

All Music Guide didn't hear enough grit in his voice to be singing a song called "We Run This Town." "No matter how many six-packs he sings about swinging or how many parties he crashes, Bryan just doesn't seem like a macho man. He seems like a nice guy, the kind of dude who would never down drinks till dawn, the kind of guy who would grow on a girl, not the one who would swagger over with seduction on his mind."

Post-Gazette contributor Rich Kienzle, a noted country music historian, gave the album one star and said the singer, known for his spring break tunes, "symbolizes everything wrong with Nashville in 2013."

In response to his critics, Mr. Bryan told USA Today, "If a bunch of people want to say, 'All he talks about is dirt roads and tailgates,' well, you know, that's what I see my people liking. When I visibly see them rebelling against that and not enjoying me singing about it, then I'll start tinkering with new ways to sing about tailgates and stuff."

As a touring act, he's made a gradual climb. In Pittsburgh, he opened for Kenny Chesney's Heinz Field show in 2008, did a Pirates Skyblast show in 2010, and opened for Tim McGraw at First Niagara in 2011 and Jason Aldean in 2012.

"When Luke was on the Chesney show as the opener," says Y108 DJ Stoney Richards, "we had him come to our Y108 broadcast and he agreed ... in pouring rain, jumped off the cart, came into the tent as the audience gathered around him like bees and honey. He just stood out in that pouring rain signing autographs and hugging people for pictures with that gleaming smile, and I knew then he was going to be a star."

This year's Dirt Road Diaries Tour is his first as a headliner, and when he announced it last fall, he said, "I have dreamed about this day for a very long time. We are having the best time putting together all the bells and whistles for the tour. I have spent a lot of time out on tours with some really great artists, and each night we have tried to learn from them. I couldn't be more excited about this!"

He was already selling out arenas when he pulled an upset at the Academy of Country Music Awards in April by beating out Miranda Lambert, Blake Shelton, Jason Aldean and Taylor Swift for entertainer of the year.

As the first male artist to do it since Kenny Chesney in 2007, he delivered an emotional speech, saying, "Thank you so much for making my life what it is. What I always wanted to be was just a country singer who got to ride on a tour bus and show up on a new stage and play music every night."

We're one of the next stops, and Y108 and its listenership will be out there in full force. Mr. Richards, who plays Luke Bryan and Zac Brown on the station, says, "Zac needs to do what all players know ... concentrate on your own game. Luke is simply speaking to his audience in that song. Take a look at the crowd on Saturday, and no one will be thinking of what Zac Brown said or worried about what he thinks. Saturday will be Luke's night here, if Florida Georgia Line doesn't drive that crowd into a frenzy."

music

Scott Mervis: smervis@post-gazette.com; 412-263-2576. First Published September 26, 2013 4:00 AM


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