It’s Official: Luke Combs Is Legit
Luke Combs opened a two-night stay at Nashville's Ryman Auditorium with 90 country minutes that legitimized all of the hype around the newcomer.
It's clear the North Carolina-raised "Hurricane" singer will have no trouble adjusting to bigger venues after starting in bars and honky-tonks. His stage, band and presentation were crafted for larger theaters than this — the sound would have easily filled a small arena. Let's face it, that's not always the case with new artists. Sometimes the stage show is put together hastily after radio success. Sometimes a sold out show at the Ryman relies on an extended section of reluctant media and industry personnel.
And then sometimes, the seeds of a grassroots career germinate in lockstep with commercial success. It's not an exaggeration to say Combs' fans stood for every song. Album cuts like "Out There," "Don't Tempt Me" and "Beer Can" were shouted back at him like they were No. 1 hits, too. Memories of Travis Tritt, Hank Williams Jr. and Brooks & Dunn hovered over an amped audience, but all of these influences were presented in unique, personal and progressive ways.
As a showman, Combs is energetic and confident. He plays into the crowd without pandering — if there was one of those cutesie waves, it was subtle. The "When It Rains It Pours" singer works the stage like a football coach works a sideline, often pacing back and forth aimlessly. If there was one thing he could improve on, it's this, but finding physical purpose is typically a superstar problem, so it's well ahead of the curve.
New songs like "Houston, We've Got a Problem" and "Beer Never Broke My Heart" followed a stunning cover of Ed Sheeran's "Dive." Combs is not only a dynamic vocalist, but a versatile performer capable of pulling from a variety of genres. "Beautiful Crazy" was another new song before he closed with "One Number Away" and "Can I Get an Outlaw," a song that's truly worth waiting for.
"Hurricane" came just before the encore, adding an exclamation point to a fine Ryman debut. All too often the importance of the venue intimidates an artist into thinking he or she needs to do something special to justify being there. Neither Combs or Ashley McBryde fell to this. The opening act delivered a conversational set of stories and memories with a nervous charm that was as relatable as her music. She too is an artist to watch closely in 2018.
Update: An earlier version of this article misnamed the song "Beautiful Crazy" and stated that "Hurricane" came during the encore. We regret the error.
Hold On Luke! We've Got One Last Question!