DUSTIN LYNCH SELLS OUT AND WARMS UP THE FILLMORE
Dustin Lynch knows how to make an entrance. Headlining the DC area for the first time, his Hell Of A Night Tour played to a sold out crowd at The Fillmore Silver Spring Saturday night. It was a hell of a cold night in Maryland, but Dustin took the stage in a t-shirt and his signature cowboy hat and embraced the opportunity to bring the heat, practically taunting Mother Nature to freeze this moment in time. His smile is ever-present, as is his humble and gracious nature. He recalled being in the parking lot before a Jason Aldean concert at Jiffy Lube just a few years ago, crashing a tailgate party, and promoting his debut single, “Cowboys and Angels,” released in January, 2012. Just four years later, he’s released two successful albums, a string of hit singles, and been in the opening spot on tours with Keith Urban and Luke Bryan. Standing in the midst of a crowd that was clearly sold on Dustin Lynch, no one was happier to be there than Dustin, himself.
I’d seen Dustin open for Keith Urban a couple years ago, and I was impressed with his energy, his set list, and his ability to engage the crowd. This was no contrived act. He was talented, genuine, and had a clear appreciation for his band. It was a Jerry Maguire, “You had me at hello,” fan experience for me. Having scored big in that opening slot, I was excited to see what he would bring to a headlining set. Silver Spring, Maryland isn’t exactly an Old West town where cowboys ride in at sunset to water their horses. The boots in this neck of the woods don’t come with spurs on them, but somehow, Dustin turned this into a place where “She Wants a Cowboy.” He made the room feel as intimate as a campfire gathering, while looking “To The Sky” as the ceiling on his energy-filled show. He opened with that and blew the roof off the place, like he’d fired off a round at high noon. Not only can this gunslinger sing, but the posse he’s got backing him up are a bunch of musical sharpshooters, adept on their weapons of choice – Chris LaCorte (stage left guitar), Mitchell Curtis (stage right guitar), Colin Healy (bass), and Billy Freeman (drums).
Dustin’s set list played like a “Cowboys and Angels” tale, a song he wrote about his grandparents’ marriage. It had all the components of growing up a small town boy, looking for the right girl, and the ups and downs that ride entails. Off his debut album, he included five of his signature songs with “She Cranks My Tractor,” “Name On It,” “Wild In Your Smile,” and “Hurricane” accompanying his debut ballad. All were instantly recognized and warmly received by The Fillmore crowd. The rest of the list showcased what’s on the new album, from the flirty, “Halo,” to the reminiscent, “All Night.” He debuted a new song, the title of which wasn’t clear, but if I had to name it based on the lyrics, I’d say it’s ‘Small Town Boy Like Me.’ The crowd enjoyed it and it fit him like an old pair of jeans. I expect that one might show up on the next record. He followed it with his latest single, “Mind Reader.” The sexy groove of this one was a big hit, and had the crowd swaying nearly as one. “Sing It To Me” turned the temperature way up in the room and put Justin Timberlake on notice. Who says a cowboy can’t bring sexy back?
The middle of the set turned to the frustrations that can be had in loving a woman. “Middle Of Nowhere” describes that blank space between the words ‘girl’ and ‘friend,’ and as Dustin related, the feeling of being put in the friend zone. He continued on the subject of woman troubles with the intro to “Hurricane” followed by a cover of Garth Brooks’ classic, “The Thunder Rolls.” It was a clever pairing that perfectly suited the mood of that portion of the set list, and the most authentic use of a Garth cover I’ve seen. He followed this with a karaoke portion of the show, inviting a young woman to the stage to spin a wheel with the names of artists on it. His opening acts, Tyler Rich and Chris Lane, were also invited to the stage to participate. It was a fun change of pace that shifted the mood and set the stage for the last four songs.
After asking the crowd where the after party was at, Dustin offered his idea of an “After Party.” Inviting everyone in the room wasn’t exactly what he had in mind. Had there been windows in the room, they would have been steamed up after this one. Describing the story behind “Cowboys and Angels,” it was evident that Dustin takes nothing for granted. He thanked everyone who’s supported his music, including the local radio stations, and gave a shout out to upcoming shows in the area with Luke Bryan and Little Big Town. After the song, he showed yet another notch of integrity. He introduced his band members individually, standing beside each one and sharing their hometowns. His respect for their talent and friendship on the road was palpable. He has an exceptional band, and the audience was more than happy to give them their due.
The show’s finale included his hit song, “Where It’s At,” with his bass player, Colin Healy, crowd surfing in a rubber boat. You know it’s hot in the room when the beach toys come out. After exiting the stage briefly, the band returned for the encore the tour was named for, “Hell Of A Night.” Standing at the back of a sold out room, I can say as an eyewitness that no one left that show early. Everyone knew what the encore song would be, and no one wanted to miss it. It was the equivalent of putting a crowd slapping high five on a great night of music. The heat in the room had become comfortable, and Dustin looked as reluctant to leave as the rest of us. At the end of the show, the entire band joined him, center stage, for a bow to the crowd. It was clearly a heartfelt thank you for a great reception. I hung around for a bit after the show to watch Dustin engage with the fans. He remained on stage and was signing everything that was handed to him. When I left, he was still there, obviously not intending to disappoint anyone. The last time I saw a headliner do this, the opening act was Dustin Lynch, and the headliner was Keith Urban. Not a bad act to follow.
The Hell Of A Night Tour lives up to its billing. They show up and deliver exactly that. It’s a group effort from a bunch of guys that are as close off the road as they are sharing a tour bus. The respect they have for each other shows in the way they play together on the stage. Whether Dustin Lynch is performing a single song, an opening set, or headlining his own tour, he brings the same enthusiasm and genuineness to each performance. His songs are a true representation of the man, and his music is appealing to a wide demographic. Dustin is very conscious of the fact that fan support is not to be taken for granted, and he works every minute he’s on stage to make sure that the experience is a positive one for everyone in the room. When he says he’s happy to be someplace, he is, and it shows. If you get to a Luke Bryan show this year, don’t miss Dustin Lynch’s opening set. If you can catch him on the Hell Of A Night Tour, or any other headlining show, do that. At the beginning of the show, Dustin stated that one of his resolutions for 2016 was to capture more of those special nights on tour so the band could look back and remember what a year they had. The Fillmore was one of those nights.
Dustin’s latest album, Where It’s At, is available through iTunes:
Visit Dustin’s website for tour information: http://www.dustinlynchmusic.com/
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