There was a fiery country music revival on Friday night (Feb. 2) at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena. If you missed it, you missed out.
Cody Johnson gave a career-defining show to sold-out crowd of over 20,000 fans, thrilling the CoJo Nation with his passion, showmanship, stewardship of country music and overall mastery of his craft.
After Dillon Carmichael got the crowd warmed up with his charisma and tunes like “Son Of A” and “Drinkin’ Problems,” Justin Moore brought the heat to the Bridgestone stage.
Moore kept the Nashville crowd singing along with an arsenal of hits, such as “Bait A Hook,” “You Look Like I Need a Drink,” “Til My Last Day,” his recent No. 1 “You, Me, And Whiskey” and his new single “This Is My Dirt.” The every-man anthem-maker beamed out at the crowd as they enthusiastically sang “The Ones That Didn’t Make It Back Home” and “Small Town USA.”
Before Moore closed his set, he thanked Johnson for having him on tour, and his fans and country radio for giving him a career for the past 17 years.
The crowd was buzzing with anticipation by the time it was time for Johnson. The singer was introduced to the Nashville crowd by an announcer, WWE-style, which seemed to be the perfect way to unleash the intensity of the performance to come.
Johnson came out swinging, kicking things off with “Me & My Kind.” “There sure are a lot of cowboy hats in here tonight!” he said with a grin, sporting his quintessential white cowboy hat, baby blue button-down shirt, starched jeans and boots.
He blitzed the crowd with “Dance Her Home” and “With You I Am” before playing the title track of his 2023 album, Leather. A few songs in it was clear, Johnson’s got all the goods of an Entertainer of The Year. The Nashville crowd never took their eyes off of him during his 90-minute set.
It was impossible not to feel the emotion of shattered dreams when Johnson sang “Dear Rodeo,” and all the gals in the audience swooned to his sultry and vocally impressive “Nothin’ On You.” Johnson got rowdy during tunes like “People in the Back” and “Double Down,” and expertly brought the crowd in close for intimate songs like “On My Way To You” and “Human.”
When he spoke, which was often, Johnson was extremely open-hearted, making sure to continuously thank his fans for their support, as well as his team, calling out long-time manager Howie Edelman, producer Trent Willmon, writers whose songs he’s cut, his band and crew, videographers, country radio and more. He also made it very clear how thankful he was for Warner Music Nashville, sharing that other labels had told him he wouldn’t make it in Nashville because he was “just a Texas artist.”
“[Warner Music Nashville] told me, ‘We don’t want you to take the hat off, we don’t care where you’re from, you can leave the fiddle, you can leave the steel, we don’t want to change your producer. We just want to be a part of this thing that we heard about called the CoJo Nation changing country music,'” Johnson recalled. “They changed my life. Tonight I got a plaque for 17 million streams and sales in country music. That blew my mind.”
Johnson was also very clear in what he intends to do with his career. “God put me on this earth to make country music sound like country music,” he said at one point to a thunderous roar. He may be right—the Platinum-selling artist set the record for the most tickets sold by a male country artist in their Bridgestone debut with the night.
As is the case with most Nashville shows, Johnson had a few surprise guest appearances up his sleeve for the night, but no one was expecting Country Music Hall of Famers Brooks & Dunn to show up. A deafening roar erupted when the two joined Johnson onstage to perform their collaboration “Long Live Country Music” from the Leather album, which says “here’s to that teenage kid learning B&D songs on an old pawn shop six-string with a head full of honky-tonk dreams.” Johnson pointed to himself during that lyric.
The crowd was still eating out of his hand by the time Johnson approached 11:00 p.m.. Fans swayed and sang along to his touching “Dirt Cheap.” They hollered loud when Johnson started into “The Painter,” and screamed even louder when they heard the opening riff of his now three-times Platinum, Grammy-winning “‘Til You Can’t.”
In a really sweet moment, Johnson’s daughters Clara Mae and Cori joined him to sing a Ricky Nelson song from the John Wayne classic Rio Bravo—a family favorite film. The brave girls sounded beautiful and their daddy was very proud.
After thrilling fans once more with “Diamond In My Pocket,” Johnson brought out one more surprise guest, his “brother from another mother” Randy Houser. The two closed it down with a perfect cover of “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys.”
“I’ve been working my tail off for the last 17 years. This is not an overnight success,” Johnson said. “To anyone who is chasing a dream, if you want something, don’t wait for somebody to hand it to you. If you want something, go work for it. Here we are tonight 17 years later sold out in Nashville.”
Johnson’s can’t-miss “Leather Tour” continues with another sold-out show in Wichita, Kansas on Feb. 9. For more dates, click here.
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