Though Luke Combs served as headliner during the first of two sold-out shows at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium on Friday (Feb. 2), it was clear that there were two newly-minted stars on the stage that evening.
Equal parts soulful, powerful vocalist and astute songwriter, opening act and Warner Music Nashville artist Ashley McBryde held court at country music’s mother church. McBryde seemed to genuinely enjoy interacting with the audience, her relaxed performance style peppered with witty remarks.
“People often ask me if Dahlonega is a real place,” she said before introducing “A Little Dive Bar In Dahlonega.” “If I was going to make up a place, it would be a lot easier to spell.”
Before introducing her breakthrough track “Girl Goin’ Nowhere,” McBryde recalled a middle school teacher who advised that McBryde should come up with a good backup plan after she declared her dreams of being a songwriter and singer.
“All these years I thought she said, ‘Get a good backup band,'” McBryde quipped, gesturing to the ace band onstage with her. McBryde caused a stir when she performed the song onstage at the Grand Ole Opry House in June 2017.
Much of the time she stayed close to center stage for songs such as the tender “The Jacket” and saucy “Tired Of Being Happy,” stomping her boots against the hallowed wooden Ryman stage.
Following roaring version of her current single “American Scandal,” the Ryman Auditorium crowd erupted in a standing ovation for the promising newcomer.
Before headliner Luke Combs even set foot on the stage for the first of two sold-out shows at the Ryman, the audience could already hear his burly voice. Once he stepped into the spotlight, the evening was all about songs and swagger as Combs, red Solo cup in hand, effortlessly directed an evening of crowd favorite songs. The audience was instantly on its feet, and spent the remainder of the evening ardently singing the words to every song Combs’ burly voice put forth, album cut and singles alike.
Combs barreled through a set that included the majority of tracks on his debut Columbia Nashville/River House Artists album, his rough-hewn voice packing plenty of power, with extra shred on his upper range. Combs just might have the most commanding voice of any current male, mainstream country hitmaker not named Chris Stapleton.
He offered older cuts he wrote in college (“She Got The Best of Me”) and songs penned just a few weeks earlier (“Houston We Have A Problem”).
Notably, Combs’ only pop cover of the evening was a rendition of Ed Sheeran’s “Dive,” which Combs handled ably, though it was clear the audience preferred his own swaggering original material. Fans can expect more new tracks soon, as Combs revealed he recently recorded 20 new songs in the span of seven days.
Combs took a few moments on the stage alone, with only his guitar, to offer a solo, acoustic rendition of his album’s title track, “This One’s For You.” He remarked the acoustic segment took him back to his days playing clubs in North Carolina. The fans hung onto every word, lighting up their cell phones in the balcony and the floor seats.
“How many of you ever broke up with someone and your life got better?” he quipped, offering his second No. 1 hit “When It Rains (It Pours).”
Combs wrapped the show with his current single “One Number Away,” and his smash debut single “Hurricane.”
“I dropped out of college with 21 credits left,” Combs shared with the audience during the set. “They told me to get a real job, and two nights sold-out at the Ryman is a pretty good job.”
Combs will take the stage in Nashville again on Wednesday evening, as one of the New Faces of Country during this year’s Country Radio Seminar.
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