Luke Bryan has evolved.
In the past, Bryan has opened for quite a few big artists.
He was a charismatic but plain performer back when he warmed up crowds for Tim McGraw and Jason Aldean.
On Saturday at CenturyLink Center, Bryan blew away the sold-out audience that came for his headlining gig. And he came with jets of flame, guitar solos, hip-shaking and a barrage of hit country songs including “Drink a Beer,” “Rain is a Good Thing” and “Drunk on You.”
Bryan made a grand entrance reminiscent of KISS and Kid Rock when he emerged from the middle of his stage standing on a jacked-up 4x4 and surrounded by a ring of fire.
“You're looking good, Omaha,” Bryan told the screaming crowd of about 15,000 people.
He took advantage of his country sex-symbol status with tight jeans, hip-shaking and pelvic thrusting. Then he turned up his band's guitars with more distortion than Nirvana.
Bryan is the kind of country star who prefers a ball cap over a cowboy hat and cranks electric guitar over any country feel. Even the twangy ballad “Someone Else Calling You Baby” was drowned in guitar noise.
With all of his showmanship and all of that distortion, it felt closer to a Metallica show than a George Strait concert, but fans ate it up.
A female-heavy audience screamed every time Bryan shook his hips, and fans belted out nearly every word along with him, whether he sang a Garth Brooks or Macklemore & Ryan Lewis cover (“Much Too Young” and “Can't Hold Us”) or one of his own big hits (“I Don't Want This Night to End”).
Bryan was good at keeping up the spectacle for his screaming fans. Early in the show, he sat behind a piano and sang the Brooks cover as well as his own song, “Do I.” Later, Bryan pulled Miller Lites from a big cooler branded by his sponsor (the Nebraska-based Cabela's) and tossed the beer cans to fans. He even invited openers Cole Swindell and Lee Brice onstage to sing with him on “If You Ain't Here to Party” and the Macklemore cover.
Near the end of the show, Bryan turned the spectacle into a genuine moment by sitting on a prop fishing dock placed on the stage and singing “Drink a Beer.” He strummed an acoustic guitar and belted out the heartwarming tune that has been No. 1 on Billboard's country chart for the past two weeks.
During his set, which lasted more than 90 minutes, Bryan kept things really fun by singing short pieces of songs by Justin Timberlake and Ke$ha. He also paraded around his huge circular stage, which spanned nearly half of the arena floor, to high-five his fans and dance around.
Bryan finished with an encore of “The Only Way I Know” — a perfect example of marrying his country tunes with Metallica- like licks — and the shake-it single, “Country Girl (Shake It For Me).”
Even one man who remained seated for the whole show stood up and sang along with those tunes.
“We love you, Omaha,” Bryan said. “Thanks for singing along with us.”
Setlist: “That's My Kind Of Night,” “Rain Is a Good Thing,” “Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye,” “All My Friends Say,” “Country Man,” “Someone Else Calling You Baby,” “Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old)” (Garth Brooks cover), “Do I,” “Play It Again,” “Muckalee Creek Water,” “Drinkin' Beer and Wastin' Bullets,” “Suntan City,” “If You Ain't Here to Party,” “Can't Hold Us” (Macklemore & Ryan Lewis cover), “Crash My Party,” “Drink a Beer,” “Drunk on You,” “I Don't Want This Night to End”
Encore: “The Only Way I Know,” “Country Girl (Shake It for Me)”