Singer, opener bring medley of hit singles, covers to Coliseum
He ran out from behind the Carolina Coliseum stage like it was the corner of Williams-Brice, his cowboy boots to the concrete and a garnet and black Connor Shaw jersey on his back.
The crowd was divided down the middle, the right yelling, “Save Water” and the left screaming back, “Drink Beer” — a makeshift “Game! Cocks!” chant — midway through the country crooner’s opening song.
Chris Young, a just-outside-of Nashville-native, performed a free concert hosted by Carolina Productions at the Coliseum Sunday night.
Students filled a few sections of the Coliseum stadium seating, pulling magenta, green and brown cowboy hats (provided with admission) down over their eyes. As the lights went down and the amps pumped up, everyone flew to the front.
It was the perfectly outfitted country concert, in the center ex-basketball court — and then there was rap.
Country-rooted opener Chris Lane took the stage with an odd choice, led by his lead guitarist Joseph Pope: “Lose Yourself” by Eminem.
His whole set, in fact, was a melody of deep-hearted country regulars and hip-hop, pop and soft rock classics that are really just throwbacks to the college-aged crowd.
A few songs in, Lane took on Lynyrd Skynyrd’s classic “Sweet Home Alabama,” only to roll into “Hot in Herre” by Nelly and “Get Low” by Lil Jon & the East Side Boyz.
Let me tell you, you haven’t been to a country concert until you’ve seen a pack of 20-year-olds all-too-passionately belt out “To the sweat drip down my balls / To all these b——-s crawl” in magenta cowboy hats, belted sundresses and jean jackets.
Girls and guys alike melted at the first chord of “I Want It That Way” by the Backstreet Boys. There wasn’t a missed lyric, range change or, perhaps, dry eye, and the excitement only doubled as the guitar changed into “Wagon Wheel.”
Shrieks and squeals turned into orchestrated sways under red and blue shining lights.
Some took group Snapchats, backs to the bike rack blocking off the stage, to properly capture their excitement. Others led the crowd’s a capella chorus to the Old Crow Medicine Show hit.
Lane, completely adorable with bright blue eyes and a Braves baseball cap, does deserve props: No one knew his music, so he sang songs that people wanted to hear.
Most weren’t country — “Lean Back” by Fat Joe, “Bottoms Up” by Trey Songz and “Ms. Jackson” by Outkast — but each one was more than appreciated.
At the end of Lane’s 45 minute set, he had sung three original songs, but there was a room full of brand new, smitten fans.
It was a house full of Young fans, though, and as the set drew closer and the stage switched out for the headliner, students sat on laps and two-to-a-seat to claim their spot as close to the country singer as possible.
Young made his grand, running entrance and jumped from side to side of the crowd, that was now hanging over the front-of-stage gate, throwing his hands in the air and pressing his ear up to his guitarist’s strings. He channeled a good dose of Gamecock pride as he ran through his first couple of songs.
The stage turned black and twinkling lights glimmered on side panel screens. He slowed things down for a sweet serenade of “The Man I Want to Be.”
His between-song banter, however, was where the real Young came center stage. He cracked jokes and told stories and made it clear that women can go to the grocery store in sweats and a T-shirt, but men cannot.
What a guy.
He gave a shout-out to the armed forces and turned all the lights down low. He stood front and center, with one bright spotlight for “The Dashboard.” No one knew the words, but it was a pretty little tune.
Young channeled Lane for a quick cover — no Marshall Mathers, but ZZ Top’s “Sharp Dressed Man.” And, a few songs later, an even better one: the “Fresh Prince” theme song.
He moved his guitar strap from collarbone to just off the shoulder and back again, trying to avoid a back-of-the-neck sunburn, before he started a string of Young favorites: “Voices,” “You” and “Who’s Going to Take Me Home.”
Young’s set roared on for over an hour in a rare Sunday night country showing, and it all led up to the single that the artist said has made his career, “Tomorrow.”
The lights turned back up, shining light on the singing crowd in a kind of honest moment that perfectly lent itself to the lyrically beautiful song.