As one of the biggest names in country music, Luke Bryan is a headliner pretty much anywhere he decides to perform. On Tuesday night, though, for many people, he was upstaged by the logistics of his own tour.
Bryan came to perform at Talon Winery in Lexington on his seventh annual Farm Tour (his original performance, scheduled for Oct. 1, was postponed because of rain). It was his first-ever Farm Tour stop in Kentucky, but the memory that might stick with a lot of his fans was simply trying to get to or out of the show.
More than 20,000 concertgoers caused miles and hours of gridlock traffic on Tates Creek Road. Traffic backed up as far as Alumni Drive, and after several hours sitting in traffic, numerous fans gave up and turned around. Others parked along the road and walked in, some hoofing it more than three miles.
Many fans who did make it in were caught in traffic on the way out, some of them until 4 a.m.
Even though Bryan delayed his show for a half-hour, many fans who decided to brave the chaos missed several songs at best (including this reporter) or a huge chunk of his 90-minute set at worst.
Those who managed to see the performance saw the 2015 Academy of Country Music entertainer of the year hard at play, using his hits, looks, personality, moves, some rock 'n' roll bells and whistles, and a few curve balls to give a lot of people at least a few memorable moments.
The Farm Tour setting and atmosphere fits Bryan's persona as the fun frat boy or farm boy next door. Between the various food carts and some people partying in the field near their vehicles, it had the feel of a music festival/tailgate party. He kicked things off with his most appropriate song for the Farm Tour (which I missed, but thank goodness for friends who attended), his arena-size, country-rock single Kick The Dust Up, off his 2015 album Kill The Lights — the one in which he says he wants to turn a "cornfield into a party". Soon after, he played his first hit, 2007's All My Friends Say, which almost sounds like traditional country by comparison.
Bryan as both an artist and a performer might not signify where country music is going, but his music is definitely indicative of where it stands. His songs have lyrics firmly rooted in the genre, with adornments of pop, hip-hop and rock.
His performance with his six-piece band in Lexington felt more like a playlist at times, thanks to a mix of both his hits and covers from several genres, both predictable and unexpected. His rendition of Alabama's Play Me Some Mountain Music went over well with the Kentucky crowd, and he followed that with Strip It Down and Crash My Party, two slightly different mid-tempo love ballads that sounded like close cousins.
He played up-tempo hits including That's My Kind of Night and Rain Is A Good Thing straight up, but he sandwiched I Don't Want This Night To End between a brief medley of pop hits by The Weekend and Daft Punk (I Can't Feel My Face and Get Lucky, respectively) and Taio Cruz's Dynamite. He pulled that trick again during the first song of his encore, That's My Kind of Night, by briefly breaking into pop singer Jason Derulo's Talk Dirty To Me.
He closed with Country Girls (Shake It), which got the expected reaction from a female-heavy crowd. In fact, Bryan himself did much of the shaking during his performance, getting boy band-level reactions with every move and gyration while barely keeping a straight face. As the song neared its end, he went full-on Stone Cold Steve Austin, tossing beers into the crowd.
Bryan certainly had a good time and made sure plenty of other people who saw him did too. But for a lot of his fans, a traffic jam, quite literally, stole the show.