Next from Nashville
The mainstage at Route 91 Harvest was having a big and rich time as Big Kenny and John Rich were putting on a great show. Midway through the set, I realized I had to leave. I had never seen them ever before and was a little bummed to miss ‘Save a Horse’, but I knew I couldn’t miss the last act on the side stage. Luke Combs was set to start and he was the new artist I had to see. The Next from Nashville side-stage was situated at the rear of the venue under a low-ceiling tent. I have never seen so many people jam-packed like sardines there. The Vegas sun had that crowd cooking in the heat so much that there was steam visibly rising. Chants of ‘Luke, Luke, Luke’ started up as soon as any activity occurred near the stage and the masses erupted when he finally stepped on stage. This was going to be one heck of a ride, and a loud one to boot!
Down Home Country Boy
Luke Combs is fairly new to the country music scene, only having moved to Nashville from his home in Ashville, North Carolina a few years ago. Things are quickly falling into place for Luke with the recent signing to a big Nashville label (Sony) and the first two singles have had huge success on radio and the charts. I like that he doesn’t appear to be forgetting his roots yet. Dressed in a simple country shirt, old blue jeans, boots, a Brooks & Dunn ballcap, and blue solo cup, Luke looked very comfortable on stage surrounded by his band. He should be, averaging over 250 shows a year with them and recently coming off Brantley Gilbert’s ‘The Devil Don’t Sleep’ arena tour. He has worked hard getting here and has no plans of slowing down.
Hits Like A Hurricane
Luke and the boys get to work and deliver those two hits, plus a whole lot more, with an ease that looks like so much fun and with no effort at all. The crowd eats it up, screaming every song’s vocals right along with him. This ain’t no country pop, either. This is real country music with well-written lyrics, twang, and pain. This is the country music that proves that the genre is safe with many emerging artists like Luke and Ashley McBryde. You can see the appreciation in his face and, although he rarely smiled, an almost embarrassed expression that so much love is being poured in his direction. Pacing the stage like a caged, husky panther, there is still a raw energy that Luke gives off, unlike the smooth, polished performances from the main stage where so many ‘Next from Nashville’ artists have graduated to. He’ll be there next year, for sure.
Route 91 Harvest on a Personal Level
In the aftermath of the events closing this year’s festival, it took me a while to be able to write this post and look at the images again. I have attended Route 91 every year since its inception and have debated back and forth about a return next year. Looking back, choosing to watch Luke instead of the main stage acts kept me out of the area that received the direct wrath of the gunman and potentially saved my life. In the end, it is music that keeps us strong, music that heals us, music that helps us remember what is important in our lives. Live music is one of the purest forms of love and is a strong thread in the fabric of our society. I’m sure I will be back, as long as the lineup is good. Jason Aldean’s SNL appearance song choice says it all, ‘I Won’t Back Down’.
For more images from Luke’s Route 91 performance, see below…