It was truly an unforgettable night at Madison Square Garden as Thomas Rhett brought his Very Hot Summer (VHS) tour to a sold-out “The World’s Most Famous Arena.” With him were special guests Russell Dickerson, Dustin Lynch and his father, Rhett Akins, to support his funk-infused country show that left the New York City fans in awe.
Rhett Akins led off with two songs he wrote for other artists: Jon Pardi’s “Dirt on My Boots” and Blake Shelton’s “Boys ‘Round Here.” He mentioned how cool it was to be opening for his son, playing at this iconic arena again. He played two original songs in “Don’t Get Me Started” and “That Ain’t My Truck.” Putting things in perspective, Akins said he wrote: “That Ain’t My Truck” when his son was only four years old.
Back in 2016, just weeks after NYCountry Swag officially launched, we hosted Russell Dickerson during our very first event at Libation NYC. To say we believed in him and his talent is a vast understatement, and we just knew that one day we would be celebrating his Madison Square Garden debut. Watching him perform for that many fans, hearing them sing back his words was emotional for our entire team. He played five songs from his latest album, Yours including the title track, “Billions,” “Blue Tacoma,” his current single “Every Little Thing” and “MGNO” (My Girl’s Night Out) that he blended with Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody.” Dickerson got emotional after performing “Blue Tacoma” as he recalled playing for our company in a small bar to now playing Madison Square Garden in the heart of New York City.
“I remember sitting on top of a barstool, sitting on a box, (for) a little thing called NYCountry Swag (playing with) a microphone duct-taped to a mic stand with about twenty-five people there. The fact that all y’all packed in tonight…thank you, thank you.” MSG turned into a rave scene during “MGNO” as the fans were dancing and cheering the singer-songwriter on as he jumped and ran all over the stage. The Tennessee native hyped up the NYC fans as they got ready for the next act, Dustin Lynch.
Lynch started with the lead single from his third studio album, Current Mood, “Seein’ Red” then followed it with three songs from his second album Where It’s At, including the title track, “Hell Of a Night” and “Mind Reader.” During his performance of “I’d Be Jealous Too,” Lynch sat in the middle of the stretched out catwalk signing autographs, taking selfies and singing into fans’ cell phones. Lynch then went all the way back to his first single, “Cowboys and Angels,” a song in which he wrote as a dedication to the love his grandparents shared.
Lynch took a lot of time to talk to the crowd about his journey from being a kid listening to country music all the way to opening for Thomas Rhett at Madison Square Garden. His biggest influences growing up were George Strait and Garth Brooks, along with Batman and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, of course. He covered bits of four songs in between each portion of the story: “Chattahoochee” by Alan Jackson, “Something Like That” by Tim McGraw, “What Was I Thinkin’” by Dierks Bentley and “Love Somebody Like You” by Keith Urban. Lynch has a special relationship with both Urban and Bentley. Dierks told Dustin to knock on every door and take every chance you can get if you want to be a successful artist. Those words stuck with him to this very day. “If you guys take anything away from my show tonight, I want you to take this away: If you have a dream and you really believe in yourself…do not take ‘no’ for an answer, from anybody,” he emoted. “We’re here living the dream tonight because we did that.” Lynch will join Dierks Bentley for a special show at Michie Stadium in West Point, NY, home of the Army Black Knights on October 18th.
The singer-songwriter recalled receiving a phone call back in 2012 from a number he did not recognize. He picked up anyway and it was Keith Urban on the other line asking him to join him on his Light The Fuse Tour with Little Big Town. That was the first time Lynch and his band played this historic arena. Lynch closed his set with his most recent single, “Ridin’ Roads” and two number ones in “Good Girl” and “Small Town Boy.” Lynch tipped his cowboy hat as he exited the stage as fans got ready for their headliner, Thomas Rhett.
Rhett literally jumped out of the stage (yes, he was inside the stage) and began singing his most recent number one hit, “Look What God Gave Her” from his most recent album Center Point Road. He kept the energy going with three more upbeat songs, one from each of his first three albums; “Crash And Burn” from Tangled, “Get Me Some of That” – It Goes Like This and “Craving You” – Life Changes.
At the end of Rhett’s performance of “Notice,” the crowd went silent as the 2019 ACM Male Artist of the Year played one more acoustic chorus of the song. The fans responded with loud applause. After “Sixteen,” One of Rhett’s powerhouse backup vocalists joined him on stage to take Little Big Town’s spot in the R&B-influenced track off the new album, “Don’t Threaten Me with a Good Time.” He then followed that with a speech before playing his current single “Remember You Young.” Rhett got choked up on stage reminiscing about how he got here. Back in 2013 he opened for Jason Aldean at MSG and only got twenty minutes on stage. Flash-forward six years later he is headlining a sold-out show at the same venue. Fans lit up the crowd with their flashlights during this very sentimental song.
Rhett went a different route with his performance of “Make Me Wanna” as he jazzed up the traditional-sounding country song by heavily adding the six-piece band that was behind him. Rhett also threw in a verse from Justin Timberlake’s “Suit & Tie” in the middle of his number one song. After performing his most personal song, “Life Changes,” the 29-year-old played three stripped-down songs, including “Star of the Show,” “That Old Truck” and an unreleased song titled “To The Guys Who Date My Girls.” Although it’s a slow, heartfelt tune, Rhett throws some humor in there with the line “When you pull her close, make sure you leave some room for Jesus. If you cross that line, I swear boy, you’re gonna meet him.” You can listen to the song below.
Next, he mentioned before performing “Beer Can’t Fix” that Jon Pardi, the country artist who is featured on the studio recording was not in attendance, so he was going to need some help. When Pardi’s verse came up, Lynch and Dickerson returned to the stage sporting New York Knicks jerseys to continue the song. Then Rhett Akins ran up the long catwalk with a cooler and then distributed cans of Bud Light to the guys on stage.
Rhett stretched out “Vacation” and handed the mic over to the DJ to introduce the band behind the country super-star. Each of them got a solo on their respected instrument and when it was time for Rhett’s shout-out, he dazzled the crowd with an incredible drum solo.
He couldn’t leave the stage before performing his last two slow songs of the night in “Marry Me” and “Die a Happy Man.” Rhett let the audience sing the final chorus of “Die a Happy Man” which gave us, and probably a majority of the fans, major chills. “If Madison Square Garden in New York City is the last show I ever get to play…I could die, a happy man,” he sung as the final lyrics to his number one hit song.
Rhett ended this spectacular show with “Unforgettable” and “T-shirt”. For the finale of “Unforgettable”, Rhett ran across the stage as rainbow-colored confetti rained down onto the fans. Words cannot describe the energy of the crowd the entire 90-plus minute show. A historic night at Madison Square Garden for the artists and the fans alike. For exclusive clips from the show, head to our Instagram Stories highlight.
Although this week marks the beginning of fall, Rhett and his supporting cast will extend summer until October 12th where they will close the tour at the one and only Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee.
The Hero Collection by NYCountry Swag is inspired by the men and women of the Fire, Police and Military Departments across the country. A portion of sales from each purchase is donated to different foundations that support our heroes. We are dedicated to honoring their service and remembering their sacrifice.
Thank You for supporting Country Music in NYC & Beyond!
Subscribe to our Weekly Round-Up here
for ticket giveaways, meet & greet contests, upcoming events,
and all things country music in the New York metro area and beyond!