One album, four years after his debut EP, only six songs sent to radio, Sam Hunt has reached extraordinary heights in a very small amount of time. Thursday night was no different for the genre-bending superstar, completely selling out Madison Square Garden. As the “15 in a 30” Tour made its NYC stop, Hunt’s tour mates Ryan Follese, Chris Janson and Maren Morris took part in the epic evening, warming up the crowd.
As fans were packing into The Garden, Ryan Follese took the stage to play a few songs including his latest single, “Put a Label On It”. “I know every artist probably says this but this is totally a bucket list item, playing this stage tonight,” he told the crowd. The former frontman of the pop-punk band, Hot Chelle Rae, has recently released a few singles to country radio all on his own. Mashing up the theme song to “Fresh Prince of Bel-air” and his former band’s biggest hit, “Tonight Tonight” had the audience jumping around and singing along.
A common theme throughout the night of incredible music was the fans packing out The Garden from beginning to end. It didn’t matter if a song was a radio single, a number one hit or a track buried on an album. Fans didn’t care if it was traditional country or had a twinge of R&B or pop, they cared that they loved the artists and the way the night made them feel.
Chris Janson was the perfect opening act for such a big show, providing the crowd with a high-energy set that left fans on their feet. Singing all of his radio singles including “Buy Me a Boat”, “Fix a Drink” and even his unique version of “Truck Yeah” which he wrote and Tim McGraw cut. “We are in the greatest city on God’s green earth tonight, I love America and I love New York City,” Janson said, which was met with an eruption of cheers. Before singing his smash hit “Holdin’ Her,” (which he wrote for his wife, Kelly, and his children) he explained, “I believe if you speak simple acts of positivity to the world, positive acts rain down upon you”. His inspirational words were the perfect lead-in for the love song. Before closing out his set, he let the fans in on a secret, that the very first instrument he ever learned to play was the drums for a punk rock heavy metal band. He took a seat behind the drumset showing off his skills.
Next to take the stage, Maren Morris, is the perfect counterpart for a Sam Hunt tour. Morris creates a unique version of country music, blending country with R&B. The power vocalist sang songs off her debut album Hero only stopping throughout her set to thank the audience for their enthusiasm and for singing along. From her latest single “I Could Use a Love Song” to “Once” and “80’s Mercedes” every song had fans on their feet and swaying along.
“I never thought I would be doing this song at Madison Square Garden. It’s such a special night and it’s been an amazing week and it all started with this song,” she explained. “I’m gonna take you to church on this one” Holding up her microphone to the sold-out crowd, she watched in amazement thousands of people singing her lyrics back to her. The moment was a highlight of the evening, even bringing the songstress to tears.
Hunt’s headlining set featured songs that were exclusively on his first mixtape Between the Pines as well as covers of songs he has written for other artists and of course, his most recent absolute smash, “Body Like A Back Road”. The atmosphere was electric as Hunt’s amped up production featured huge screens and even smoke. It was the perfect mix of spectacle and slowed down moments that allowed the fans to feel like they were taking part in something really special.
Reminiscing to playing Irving Plaza for a small crowd three years ago, Hunt acknowledged how quickly his career has taken its turn and how he has had an incredible year. “This is amazing to be playing Madison Square Garden, I would say it is definitely a highlight of 2017 for me, it’s been a good year,” he tells the crowd in a moment between songs. Taking a moment to also thank Billy Currington for cutting “We Are Tonight” which was written before his career as an artist took off.
This being his first headline tour, Hunt took a few minutes to slow things down, sit on a stool by himself on stage and talk to his adoring fans. Taking us through his musical journey growing up in Georgia, the acoustic set featured songs from all genres including traditional country, R&B, and pop music. He explained to the crowd filled with men and women of all ages, “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.” The sentiment hit home, where fans of Hunt do not care which radio station is playing his songs, they only care that they love his songs. Before ending his night on the main stage with “Break Up In A Small Town,” Hunt took to a smaller stage on the opposite end of the venue to perform “Make You Miss Me” on piano. Hunt showed versatility and the ability to entertain a sold-out crowd in New York City.
Overall, the epic night ended with confetti spraying down and fans leaving The World’s Most Famous Arena super impressed with the four-hour show. The 15 in a 30 Tour continues through the month. For more information and tour dates check out SamHunt.com
Perhaps one of the most surreal parts of the night for us was running into so many fans rocking New York Country Swag gear! We saw everything from our Red & Blue Line Snapbacks to our Whiskey Me Away Flannels. Thank You for the support and for rockin’ your swag! Most importantly, Thank You for supporting Country Music in NYC!
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– Team NYCountry Swag