The debate among country music fans asks: Who is the better Luke, Luke Combs or Luke Bryan?
Sorry, Combs fans: My heart’s always been with Bryan. And I’ve long been a big fan even though I had never seen him in concert — until last night.
Bryan performed at the American Family Insurance Amphitheater Thursday night and I couldn’t have asked for a better act to kick off my first time seeing him live than my first Summerfest concert in three years. Bryan said during the show it’s “been a minute” since he’s been to Summerfest. Same, Luke, same.
With the temperatures Thursday evening in the 60s and 70s, half the crowd wearing jeans and sweatshirts or flannels, and the fact that it’s September already (where did the summer go?) it honestly felt like more of a kick off to autumn. Throw in a fireworks show, though, and you're carried right back to summer. I know I’m going to be holding onto these last few days of summer, or whatever warm weather is left, until fall officially starts Sept. 22.
Bryan really squeezed in a lot of music on Thursday night, being sure to play some of his top-most hits including “Waves,” “One Margarita,” “What Makes You Country,” “Knockin’ Boots” and “Kick the Dust Up.” The only songs he didn’t play that I wish he covered included “Most People Are Good,” “Light It Up,” “Fast,” and “Home Alone Tonight.” But you can’t have everything, especially added to an already awesome concert.
Bryan, wearing the staple country artist performance outfit of boots, jeans, a solid black T-shirt and hat, started the show off on the best foot forward. “That’s My Kind of Night” is a rocking country anthem that’s been played countless times by genre fans; even non-country music fans enjoy it (or, OK, frat dudes I knew in college). Playing that tune brought up the energy of the crowd immediately and got them singing and dancing, myself included.
I loved seeing Bryan dance as well throughout; he seemed to get into the beat and frequently tapped his boot-covered heels on the stage.
After “What Makes You Country,” he took a tequila shot on stage (“Here’s to country music on a Thursday night,” he said) and everyone in the audience raised their glasses – even if they weren’t tequila; they were mainly beer.
The on-fire energy of Bryan and the audience, perhaps with a little help from the alcohol, didn’t stop there. Bryan took another shot just before performing “Waves” – but of course not without making a joke about getting tipsy.
He asked the audience where the Packers fans were. A member of his band even played the “Go Pack Go” melody so the crowd could cheer. A “Bucks in Six” chant soon naturally followed. Bryan and his band definitely did their job of catering to the local audience during their "Proud to Be Right Here Tour" around the U.S.
During “Strip It Down” I noticed the emotion in his eyes. He squeezed them super-tightly shut; his passion and concentration on the song were clear. With the added ambiance of a disco ball reflecting the stage lights and glittering in the otherwise dark amphitheater, plus audience members getting closer and closer, his previous (joking) comments about people getting pregnant at his concerts suddenly all made sense.
Bryan actually held a margarita during the summer of 2020 party hit song “One Margarita," but he didn’t actually drink it? I was left wondering where the beverage ended up because one moment he had it in his hand and the next, it was gone. Maybe he chugged it when I wasn’t looking.
Also during this track, the Big Bang Summerfest fireworks show took place behind the Amphitheater, adding some extra pop and pizzazz to the already present punch of the performance.
Bryan’s opening act Dylan Scott, who performed just hours before, came back on stage for “All My Friends Say.” The two threw cans of beer into the audience. It truly wouldn’t be a country concert without this much booze.
“Drunk on You,” “Do I” and “Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye” were performed during an acoustic interlude, with just Bryan on stage and no band – a way to tackle some of his more popular but somewhat older music in a quicker fashion instead of playing out the full versions, but would still satisfy fans dying to hear each one. Each song lasted one or two verses and one or two choruses. I wished we had heard more of “Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye,” as that one fell into the “one chorus” category and it’s one of my favorite songs. But, as I said earlier, can’t have everything.
After “Drink A Beer,” the way the audience was moving, I could tell things had really slowed down. It seemed like people weren’t as familiar with this track, or perhaps just weren’t on the same page as Bryan, who seemed to be going for slower music during this portion of the show. But then, of course, he picked it back up before the finale to finish off on a high note.
At the end of “Move,” Bryan headed over to the drumset and banged on a cymbal pretty loudly. I felt that reverberate through my body and could’ve personally done without it. The others in the audience holding their ears probably agreed. But fans quickly forgave him when Bryan performed “Play It Again” as that’s one of his top hits. He even courteously told the audience, who had been singing along, that the song was the best it’s ever sounded. Now, Bryan has played more than a thousand concerts, so I’m a bit skeptical to believe him. But in that moment, sure. We’ll say it was the best-ever sounding. It’s definitely the best I’ve ever heard it live (even if it may have been the only time).
Bryan ended with an encore of “I Don’t Want This Night to End” and he couldn’t have picked a better tune to create an exit with – and that’s not just because the lyrics suggest not wanting a good time to stop when the threat of leaving soon is potentially looming overhead. One of the guitarists brought out the electric violin and the audience was eating up every last word of the lyrics. It was something upbeat to close out the concert, and as he was saying his goodbyes and “see you next time”s to Milwaukee, the positively-charged emotions overwhelming me really had me wishing the night would never end.
"That’s My Kind of Night"
"Rain Is A Good Thing"
"What Makes You Country"
"Huntin’, Fishin’ and Lovin’ Every Day"
"Kick The Dust Up"
"Down to One"
"When The Sun Goes Down" (Kenny Chesney cover)
"All My Friends Say"
"Drunk on You" (acoustic)
"Do I" (acoustic)
"Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye" (acoustic)
"Crash My Party"
"Strip It Down"
"Drink A Beer"
"Sunrise, Sunburn, Sunset"
"Play It Again"
"Jump Around" (House of Pain)/"Shake That" (Eminem and Nate Dogg) mashup and "Country Girl (Shake It For Me)"
"I Don’t Want This Night to End"