Review: Sam Hunt’s 15 in a 30 Tour Brings Country, Pop and Everything in Between
About halfway through his Sunday night (July 23) concert in Canandaigua, N.Y., Sam Hunt -- seated on a stool at center stage, acoustic guitar in hand, his band offstage so he could play alone for a bit -- offered some thoughts to the sold-out crowd before him: "This generation, y'all don't pay attention to genres of music; you don't pay attention to genres of people. You listen to what makes you feel good; you hang out with people you like, not people who look like you."
Hunt's words, met with cheers, were the summation of a brief journey through his own musical history, one that began with a cover of Alan Jackson's "Don't Rock the Jukebox" and concluded with his version of Kenny Chesney's "Come Over" (a song that Hunt co-wrote) but stopped at Usher and R. Kelly along the way. However, they're also simultaneously the reason for his popularity and the reason traditional-leaning fans worry that country music is losing its way ... and the reason that the 15 in a 30 Tour works.
Sunday night's crowd -- mostly in their teens through their early 30s, but with some older audience members mixed in -- knew every word to Travis Tritt's "It's a Great Day to Be Alive," which Hunt covered, and to Hot Chelle Rae's "Tonight Tonight," with which the pop-punk band's frontman-turned-rising solo country artist Ryan Follese closed his show-opening set. They sang along to Chris Janson's "Redneck Life" and Maren Morris' "Rich" -- neither a single -- as much as they did to those artists' biggest hits, "Buy Me a Boat" and "My Church," respectively. They didn't care if it was a No. 1 song on the radio or not, and they didn't care if it was pop, rock, punk, soul or country -- they came to sing, dance and party, and Hunt and company delivered.
Hunt's headlining set featured everything from a song that was only released as part of his acoustic 2013 mixtape, Between the Pines ("Saturday Night"), to his inescapable current single, "Body Like a Back Road." In addition to "Come Over," he performed his own versions of William Michael Morgan's "I Met a Girl," Keith Urban's "Cop Car" and Billy Currington's "We Are Tonight," all of which he helped write. From start to finish, the crowd knew every word, and they were loud and proud about it; from time to time, Hunt would hold out the mic and instruct them to take over lead vocals -- as if they needed the invitation.
Hunt clearly isn't afraid to be bold in concert, either. As the intro of Kendrick Lamar's "Humble" faded into Hunt's own "Ex to See," the song was louder than its studio version; searing guitars and thumping bass made for a slightly updated, tweaked rendition. The set-closing "Break Up in a Small Town," too, packs an extra punch live -- especially when it flows seamlessly into a few lines of "Drinkin' Too Much."
The 15 in a 30 Tour is scheduled to run through late September. More details are available at SamHunt.com.
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