I’ve seen well over 1000 artists, probably closer to 2000 to be honest, but few have grown as quickly as Luke Combs. Combs has completely taken over country music with one of the most unique songwriting styles the genre has ever seen.
Combs has a great ability to twist the meanings of his lyrics. He’s blessed with a voice that blends, bends and shapes to whatever he’s singing and in my humble opinion, Luke will be one of the biggest stars that country music has ever seen. Before we get into his set though, let’s discuss Drew Parker and Ashley McBryde’s sets from a chilly Valentine’s night.
Drew Parker was up first to rock Rupp. His style fits the mold of what you hear on terrestrial radio. Stations like 98.1 The Bull love artists like Parker. A good ole boy in a cowboy hat singing about partying, pickup trucks and the girl that got away. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that though, I’m guilty of enjoying some of those types of songs myself. And obviously, folks enjoy artists like Parker or radio would simply ignore them otherwise.
Parker’s performance was high-energy, and he was clearly enjoying the Rupp Arena crowd as they trickled in, but for me, his slower songs were his bread and butter. His Southern drawl worked quite well on those as you had more time to soak in that drawl. “Hell Yeah, Say When, I’m In” and I Was Lying” are great examples. Plus, “Hell Yeah, Say When, I’m In” references Kentucky legend Keith Whitley, so you already know that I particularly enjoyed that one! All in all, I enjoyed Parker’s set very much.
Next up was Ashley McBryde. Ashley is a personal favorite of mine, so I was a bit smitten when I saw that she was the direct support for Luke. I fell completely head over heels in love for Ashley’s music after seeing a YouTube video of her performing “A Bible And A .44” Which you can see below:
Ashley’s performance was flat-out incredible. I really enjoy her studio work, but for me, Ashley in a live setting is waaaaaaayy better. She has the ability to write songs that are massive, relatable hits, but her personality is still able to shine over them. That is a rare combination, but when it happens, those artists wind up being household names and eventually legendary performers. Ashley is well on her way to fill those shoes, just in case Ole George Jones is a wondering up there. Favorites for me included “Hang In There Girl”, “One Night Standards”, “Martha Divine”, and “A Little Dive Bar in Dahlonega”.
Filled to the rafters, it was now time to blow the roof off of Rupp Arena as Luke Combs took the stage, and let me preface this by saying, this young man did everything in his power to try and do just that.
I’ll start by saying that my Luke Combs journey began long before his current success. I stumbled upon Luke when he was a star on the now-defunct app, Vine. His quick clips of covers, originals and comedy were essentially the only reason I kept Vine. You can see what I saw in Luke years ago below:
As a huge countdown clock on the three video screens made Rupp Arena feel like a pressure cooker, Luke Combs busted onstage jumping straight into “When It Rains It Pours” and he rarely let up on the ole gas pedal for the rest of the night. Tearing through song after song, Combs was shotgunning beers and tossing them into the crowd, letting out huge screams in approval of the good vibes, and never missed a damn note. That ain’t even fair. Lol
As I mentioned, Luke shotgunned a Miller Lite during “1, 2 Many” and tossed it into the crowd and he lit the pits fire for ’em! As he performed songs like “Refrigerator Door”, “Does to Me”, “New Every Day”, and my personal favorite tune in “One Number Away”, I kept thinking about how quickly Luke has risen. So I decided to use Spotify to help me paint a popularity picture for us. As you’ll see, one of Kentucky’s favorite sons in Chris Stapleton has 6,553,577 listeners, and in comparison, Luke Combs has 8,121,533 listeners. That was somewhat unexpected, but it does help explain how quickly this show sold-out.
“Dear Today” was something that I needed on a personal level. The song has always meant a lot to me, but I needed that mental check last night and I’ll forever be grateful for the song and especially Luke’s performance of it. If you’re unfamiliar with the song, these lyrics will fill ya in.
“Dear today, tomorrow here
Man I was just checkin’ in
Hope you’ve been well
Me, I’m doin’ alright
Could always be better
Seeing as you’re the only one with a choice in the matter
If I know you, hell, you’re too busy
To do damn near anything that you ought to
Guess what I’m sayin’ is, is if you don’t change
Boy, you’ll be kickin’ yourself one of these days”
Check it out, Luke even had a doppelganger in the crowd! If ever needs a decoy, we know a guy in Austin Abshear!
After reality slapped me around a bit during “Dear Today”, something came out of left field and blew my mind. See I’ve seen a ton of music medleys over the years, but what Luke does is he uses a medley to allow his band members share the spotlight. What occurred was the best damn medley I’ve ever witnessed. The medley began with Luke and the band singing “Man of Constant Sorrow” into a mic stand emblazoned with the Grand Ole Opry on it. They took us to church, old-school style.
That was followed by different band members taking over lead vocals on “Queen Of My Double Wide Trailer” by Sammy Kershaw, flowed into “John Deere Green” by Joe Diffie, which became “The Dance” by Garth Brooks, that quickly became “Sold (Grundy County Auction)” by Kentucky’s own John Michael Montgomery, before coming right back around to one last chorus of “Man Of Constant Sorrow.”
My jaw is still on the floor as I type this. What. An. Incredible. Moment.
I always enjoy listening to the crowd to see what songs they enjoy. The Luke songs they sing the loudest. On Friday night, “Even Though I’m Leaving” was one of the most beautiful sing-a-longs of the night. This Luke Combs show was the fastest show to sell-out in Rupp Arena history. It only took 12 minutes by the way, and on Friday night, every soul united in beautiful harmony. Luke even took out his in-ear monitor to enjoy it.
Luke ended his initial set with “Beer Never Broke My Heart” and I kid you not, it was nearly deafening because by that point the beer had been flowing for a few hours and that particular song is like the National Anthem for beer drinkers. For a people watcher like myself, I was in Heaven! Lol Seriously though, Lexington was an absolute perfect audience on Friday night. They were there early, they drank their fill and partied their a$$es of all night long. An artist simply can’t ask for anything more than that.
For the encore, Luke performed a trifecta of hits. Two of his own and one rebooted tune. He began with the stripped-down love song to his fiance in “Better Together”, it was beautiful and I feel that Luke’s openness is a huge part of his appeal. He isn’t afraid to pull away the curtains and let you into his heart.
Next up was the Brooks & Dunn classic in “Brand New Man”. Luke was pretty instrumental in Brooks & Dunn’s comeback. ‘Reboot’ is the name of Brooks & Dunn’s new album that features several of Nashville’s biggest names joining Kix and Ronnie for new versions of old classics. Luke wasn’t the only artist on that album in attendance though, as Ashley McBryde was also included on “You’re Gonna Miss Me When I’m Gone”. I was kind of surprised that Kentuckian Tyler Booth wasn’t there. He sings “Lost and Found” with Kix on ‘Reboot’. Would have been cool, but back to the performance from Luke, he owned it. Flat-out owned it. I’m not even sure that I can say it’s a Brooks & Dunn song anymore. It’s a pretty safe bet to say that this song is also why I’ve seemed to lose my voice today. Luke finished the night with his MASSIVE hit in “Hurricane”.
In my humble opinion, in that there is only one artist to compare the spell that Luke’s music has on people, and that’s Garth Brooks. Both seemingly have this superpower that hypnotizes the crowd and turns them all into an army of back up singers. Ahhhhhh, ain’t music just the best?!
To wrap this up, IF you can get tickets to see Luke Combs, do it. Thank me later.
When It Rains It Pours
Must’ve Never Met You
1, 2 Many
Does to Me
New Every Day
One Number Away
Me Without You
Constant Sorrow/Queen Of My Double Wide Trailer/John Deer Green/The Dance/Sold/Constant Sorrow Medley
Blue Collar Boys
She Got the Best of Me
All Over Again
Memories Are Made Of
Even Though I’m Leaving
Honky Tonk Highway
Lovin’ on You
Angels Working Overtime
Beer Never Broke My Heart
Brand New Man