As the sun began to set on this warm Wednesday evening, Margaret Court Arena was enriched by a multitude of Plaid shirts, trucker caps, denim, cowboy hats and boots.
With most gigs, fans come dressed up for the event in attire that one would usually associate with that genre. But with a country music show I get the sense that the fans are coming dressed as their true, authentic selves - and authenticity is the perfect adjective to describe both Randy Houser and Kip Moore.
Randy Houser began his set by demanding our attention with his powerful and commanding voice, accompanied by the glassy tones of his Stratocaster. Randy is a big man with an even bigger presence and I think he would have quite adequately managed to make himself heard even without the microphone.
The stage was adorned with guitar amps and fold back monitors, something I haven’t seen at a live show in awhile. Such a setup is probably considered old fashioned these days but there was a noticeably organic difference in the sounds coming from the band and damn did they sound good. As the saying goes, If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
As they performed the infectiously catchy, Boots On, I witnessed the band display technical proficiency that was tastefully balanced with restraint. Note To Self, was an emotionally charged performance that encapsulated the heart felt lyrics of the song and moved us with its honesty.
Randy Houser has an undeniable earnestness about him and every time he addressed the crowd it was like a conversation with a dear friend. Playing in Melbourne is kind of like a home coming for Randy as his wife and extended family are locals, and Melbourne is without a doubt, overjoyed to claim him as one of us.
It’s easy for anyone to understand why Kip Moore is the Country music superstar that he is. A husky voice that soulfully regales us with relatable life experiences, a charismatic stage presence that demands devotion and I’m sure the ladies will agree that he’s pretty easy on the eyes too.
Country music is about the stories, but Kip takes it one step further and delivers a performance that is worthy of a stadium show. Beautiful light displays emanated from the stage, painting the audience in ornate colours and patterns whilst gnarly guitar tones echoed through the air, invoking more of a stadium Rock feel than what one would normal expect from country music.
Wild Ones, off Kip Moore’s second studio album was one of the crowd’s favourites of the night. As they sang along, I scanned the many faces in attendance and saw so much joy wherever I looked.
Somethin' 'Bout a Truck is quite possibly the best summary of all the things that make living in the country great, and from the way the crowd reacted, you’d be forgiven for thinking that they very well might be questioning whether city living really is as slick as it seems.
As a special treat for the Australian fans, Kip did a sensational cover of Am I Ever Gonna See Your Face Again by The Angels and the audience showed their appreciation by valiantly attempting to sing louder than the band.
Kip Moore and his band have a great chemistry, perfectly complimentary of each other while allowing individual members to have their moments to shine. It’s evident that they have honed their abilities through countless shows over the years and the experience shows.
Rock n’ roll had Los Angeles and Country had Nashville. Rock n’ Roll died or at best, is on life support - yet Country music is not only alive but thriving. Why is that? The reason is because Nashville cares and values its music, its artists and its traditions.
There are probably a million memes on the internet about country music and probably just as many jokes too. However, Country music is honesty and authenticity at its finest. Not qualities one would immediately associate with “cool”, but in my opinion - there ain’t nothing cooler than wearing your heart on your sleeve.