What do you get when you put Sam Hunt, Hunter Hayes and Lady Antebellum together? The answer? The Wheels Up Tour 2015.
Saturday night, I made a trip to the Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre in Irvine, Calif. My parents and I walked in as Sam Hunt was kicking off the set. He sang his songs that everyone would be familiar with, including “House Party,” “Raised On It,” “Take Your Time” and “Leave the Night On.” Never having seen him live, I was impressed with his charisma and the way he seemed to have the audience eating out of the palm of his hand. As a new artist, it’s often hard to draw people in, but the audience was packed from the start and singing to every word. At one point in the show, Hunt ran through the crowd to the lawn level, shaking hands and greeting as many people as he could. He seemed humbled by the crowd and the response he was getting back. You certainly won’t want to sit down during a Sam Hunt set, because he’s ready to party. While he isn’t all country, and would fall under the category of ‘bro’ country than anything else, I am still a fan. He has a different flavor than the others and creates a unique setup for telling a story. A short intermission ensued so the stage could be set for Hunter Hayes, and soon he took the stage. Hayes wear his heart on his sleeve in his enthusiasm and in his music. This is not Hayes’ first rodeo by any means, but he was still genuinely excited about the crowd singing with him and waving their arms and cell phones as he sang. He covered his well-known tunes, such as “Storm Warning,” “Everybody’s Got Somebody But Me,” and his first #1 single, “Wanted.” Hayes might be just 23-years-old, but he has a maturity and a musicality that speaks far beyond that. His soulful rhythm and detailed lyrics would make you believe that he’s lived a life much longer than that. It must be all of the coffee that he drinks, but the energy didn’t slow down one bit. He was constantly utilizing the entire stage and encouraging everyone to bounce, just like he was. Hayes has a soul that cares about the craft of what he does. It isn’t just a show to him, it’s a lifestyle. His passion shines through with every chord he plays Lady Antebellum, being the headliners, were the last to perform, starting the show with “Long Stretch of Love.” With smoke machines and the cool breeze blowing in the Irvine air, they were channeling their inner Fleetwood Mac. The country trio spent most of the set singing their hits “Love Don’t Live Here,” “Looking For A Good Time,” and “Perfect Day,” but threw in a few obscure songs, which I always enjoy hearing live. The group also revealed that they were filming for a concert DVD, though they didn’t announce a release date. Lady A made their way into the crowd to get up close and personal with the other half of the amphitheatre, with a shorter acoustic set, covering Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud” and taking it back a few years with their own “Hello World.” Just as I predicted, the band’s ‘747’ album is one of the coolest to hear live, including “Freestyle,” “Bartender,” “One Great Mystery” and of course, the album’s title, “747,” which made you feel like you were ready for take off. and they sure were. They stay true to their country roots, but they aren’t afraid to take a risk or two. They know who they are, what their sound is and I don’t think that’s something they will ever stray from.
The band brought Hunter Hayes and Sam Hunt back out for a rocking cover of “Walk This Way,” which had most of the crowd on their feet. Then, they kept Hayes around to sing their duet, “Where It All Begins” with him. Hillary Scott mentioned that they’d only done it maybe one or two other times. It’s one of my favorite songs at the moment, so I was beyond thrilled to hear it live. I think it’s such a beautiful concept to celebrate those times at the beginning, when you’re just starting a new chapter, whether it’s after graduation, a new job or starting a relationship with someone. Once you go through the journey, you can look back and smile at the moment it ‘all began.’ The concert ended with the band’s first #1 hit, “Need You Now,” which encouraged a sing-along from the crowd. The band walked off, but as everyone filed out, they returned and told us not to go anywhere. Apparently, because they were filming the tour DVD, they needed to do “Walk This Way” again, which Charles joked was because they needed to get another close-up shot of Sam Hunt’s abs. They didn’t leave anything out the second time around, and the crowd that stuck around was just as into it. The sheer genius of a true entertainer is when they continue to draw the audience in. If you’ve never seen Lady Antebellum, do yourself a favor and see them when they come to your town. It’s good music, driven by passion and a love for the people who listen to it. That’s really what it’s all about.