To fully appreciate Luke Bryan's show at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn last Sunday night, you first had to pay attention to young adults showing off their "gone country starter kits" on the Long Island Rail Road en route.
It was almost like Country-Con. A 20-something told her friend she couldn't see the window through all the flannel. Folks didn't get this hillbillied up for George Strait when he brought the "Cowboy Rides Away" tour to the Prudential Center in Newark.
But the enthusiasm in their wardrobe -- well, maybe we could have done without the American flag leggings -- actually made sense, and confirmed success for Bryan and opening acts Cole Swindell and Lee Brice before they even hit the stage.
The funny thing is, between the three there were no cowboy hats worn. Bryan opened his set with a pickup truck surrounded by a ring of fire rising up in the middle of the arena for “That’s My Kind of Night.”
It harkened back memories of the movie “Pure Country,” in which Strait (as Dusty Chandler) tired of country music getting too glittery and had to return to his roots.
But roots can be both steadying and suffocating. I still contend that there’s no terrestrial radio back in New York without the rise of Taylor Swift. That breakthrough now leaves Bryan and his opening acts to help lead a new generation of country that stretches just enough to get Hofstra coeds to trade their Vans for cowboy boots on a school night without completely abandoning the genre’s foundations.
“Country done come to town to Brooklyn on a Sunday night,” Bryan yelled to the crowd.
If Bryan weren’t willing to mention T-Pain along with Conway Twitty in his “Night” lyrics or swivel more like Johnny Gill than Johnny Cash to woo the female contingent, neither he nor the college kids would have been there.
And that sure would’ve been a shame.