Toronto got lit up Thursday night when Sam Hunt and some friends treated us to one amazing night of music. The 15 In A 30 Tour played to a SOLD OUT Budweiser Stage, and it was awesome!
Before this night got going, I was going over the lineup and thinking to myself, there is a little country and a little pop and well, just a bit of a few genres that we will be seeing and listening to. I guess you could start the conversation about what is and what is not country music these days, but whether you call it country, or pop country, or new country or whatever you want the only thing that really mattered is that: this was really good music.
To start off the night, most of us were seeing Big Machine Label Group artist Ryan Follese for the first time. Now, he explained that he has played this venue before when his band Hot Chelle Rae opened for Demi Lovato about three years ago. Ryan comes from a rock group background but decided to get back to his roots has certainly found his stride in country. Signed by Big Machine in 2016, Ryan has a self titled EP out, which he played for us on this night. Given that there were four acts in this lineup, the first couple of slots get short sets, but Ryan and his band made the most of it and connected with the Toronto crowd right away. Songs like Wilder and Float Your Boat were just great and I must tell you, that you HAVE to keep your eyes and ears open for Ryan because this guy has some style and some music chops. He was a great addition to this tour, and was a fantastic way to start the night. Great energy. Great sound. We will definitely be hearing from him again, and soon.
The next act to take over the Bud Stage was Chris Janson. Now, Chris is a name that is quite familiar to country music fans and with some of the most knowledgable fans around living here in Southern Ontario, Chris was well received. He hit the stage with a smile and a ridiculous amount of energy that carried him all the way through his set. This guy can sing, he can play the harp like nobodies business, and he sure can work up a crowd at a concert. As he stated during his show, today is a great day. And in addition to playing for most of the 16,000 who had filtered in to the venue by this time, his huge smile was likely attributed to the fact that before the show, Chris was presented with a certified platinum record here in Canada for Buy Me A Boat from his team at Warner Music Canada. Smiles all around. I happened to get just a little peek at these just prior to the presentation, and they are gorgeous. No wonder this guy was flying! Donning a Toronto Blue Jays cap, and thoroughly enjoying himself on stage, Chris showed why he deserves his new trophy. I loved Redneck Life, and the Locash song I Love This Life (which Chris wrote), but of course the place went nuts for Buy Me A Boat. Come back to Canada any time Chris! Good things happen when you’re here.
Our third performer on the bill was the uber talented and crazy pretty Maren Morris. Maren rocketed out of the gates with her 2016 debut album Hero, from which the single My Church came. And since then, she has released a followup smash with 80’s Mercedes. She has performed on tour with Keith Urban, collaborated with Thomas Rhett on Craving You, as well as receiving some prestigious awards from the CMA, ACMA, as well as a Grammy nomination. This girl can bring it, and we were able to witness her deliver it. She may be a petite package, but she is big on talent and the Toronto crowd loved what she did. Her voice carries so well in her music, and her band sounded great. Now, you could hear the crowd singing OVER top of the music when she pulled out My Church and 80’s Mercedes. You knew that would happen. It was great to see her back here in this same venue that she played last year on Urban’s tour. After she finishes up with this 15 In A 30 Tour she’ll be staying on the road to continue headlining her Hero Tour 2017. Things are continually getting better for Maren, and her show here on Thursday was solid.
This night just kept building in energy and anticipation. And around 9:30pm it hit it’s peak when Sam Hunt burst open with Leave The Night On (in my opinion, one of the best Hunt songs). And from this point on, it was singing and dancing in the crowd, lots of partying and Sam Hunt playing the soundtrack to it all. By just the second number, House Party, Hunt stepped down from the front of the stage and made his way through the frantic crowd giving out high fives all the way as his security team ran to keep up. He actually made his way right past my photo spot, then stopped, climbed onto the railing of the 300 Section seats and gave an up close and personal performance for all his fans clamouring around him by this point. What a performer! He just didn’t want anyone to feel left out I guess. And that move only made the temperature rise. Once he made his way back to the stage on the opposite side of the venue, he and his band just kept pouring on the music and all the favourites.
The largely female audience was very vocal and loving everything Sam dished out. When he cranked out Saturday Night off the Between The Pines album, it definitely felt like a Saturday night party. One other fun, stand out part of the show for me was when Sam brought out all his tour mates (Ryan, Chris and Maren) to do a great version of Outkast’s Hey Ya! This was awesome! Chris Janson came out on a skateboard, and the crowd sang along with perfect timing. Sam did slow it down a little at one point for about 8 minutes while he just talked and played a little acoustic guitar, and described his musical roots and how it’s always been country and R&B that has influenced him the most. Even telling us that some country music industry people telling him “it’s not really country” – but he persevered and kept writing and singing from his heart. Well, with a sell out here tonight, who can argue. And that goes back to what I mentioned earlier in this review. Call it what you want, but the people love it, Sam loves making it, and it’s damn good music. So keep it coming. This is why we at Tour Bus love live music. You just can’t get this feel anywhere else. I had the chance to get some reaction from a few people at the show, and here is what they said:
“I loved when Sam talked about the music that influenced him and how he knew that singing country music was his passion in life” – Marisa
“I really liked Chris Jansons crazy energy. Also when everyone came back out on stage with Sam to sing Hey Ya! by OutKast. And really, the entire night because it was so much fun and all the artists were amazing and the music was fantastic” – McKenna
“A favourite moment for me was when Sam played the piano. That was so good” – Hailey
Just a great tour lineup, great music and a great night. Thanks to Sam Hunt and his team and Live Nation Ontario for having us out, it was quite a night.
Scott Burns, Tour Bus Entertainment.