On Oct. 8, Jake Owen, Dan + Shay, and Kelsea Ballerini made their way to the Mann Center in Philadelphia to continue their run on their Days of Gold tour. It was a gorgeous, mild fall night for a concert at unique inside/outside venue, and fans took advantage of nice weather, streaming in for what would be an exciting night of country music.
First to take the stage was newcomer Kelsea Ballerini who has recently burst onto the scene in country music as a talented up-and-coming female artist to watch. The 22-year-old from Tennessee performed a blend of her own songs and several entertaining covers. One of the first songs she played was her current and second single from her debut album The First Time called “Dibs,” an upbeat and catchy track that should do well following her first release.
Ballerini has substantial vocal ability, and sounded great live no matter what she was singing. She proved her vocal and musical diversity with a cover medley of 90’s hits that had fans feeling nostalgic, including portions of Brittany Spears’ “Oops, I Did It Again,” NSYNC’s “Bye Bye Bye,” Beyonce’s “Bootylicious”, Christina Agulara’s “Genie In A Bottle,” and TLC’s “No Scrubs”.
Ballerini displayed her vibrant and playful personality, and plenty of charisma while on stage, as well as an ability to connect to fans and get them involved in the show.
Other songs Ballerini performed from her debut album included “Yeah Boy”, an infectious, mid-tempo jam that sounds as though it could be a future single choice; “Peter Pan,” which she dedicated to boys she has known that seem to refuse to grow up, and the edgy; and vivacious “XO.” She closed her set with her debut single and first #1 song at country radio, the irresistible “Love Me Like You Mean It,” thanking fans for helping to make the song so successful for her.
Dan + Shay were up next, providing direct support for headliner Jake Owen. The young duo, capable of gorgeous harmonies and hook-laden, anthemic tracks are also known for being one of the more energetic and upbeat live acts in country. They lived up to their reputation, keeping fans on their feet for the entire set and proving their vocal abilities time and time again.
The duo, comprised of Dan Smyers and Shay Mooney began their set with “Somewhere Only We Know,” an album track from their debut record Where It All Began. The song is an infectious one about escaping reality by running away to your favorite secret spot. Next came a performance of their current (and 3rd) single from their debut “Nothin’ Like You,” an incredibly catchy and sweet track that is on its way to becoming the duo’s first top ten hit at country radio.
The pair also incorporated a surprising number of well-known covers of varying genre into their set, including classic rock gems like Bon Jovi’s “You Give Love A Bad Name,” and Def Leppard’s “Pour Some Sugar On Me,” that had the crowd engaged and singing along. Other notable covers included Taylor Swift’s “Bad Blood,” “I’ll Make Love To You” by Boys To Men, Tyo Cruise’s “Dynamite,” and Maroon 5’s “Move Like Jagger”. While the classic rock covers had the older audience members on their feet, the pop ones helped the duo connect even further with the younger members in the crowd who are familiar with an abundance of mainstream music.
Also from their debut, Dan + Shay performed the hook driven “Stop Drop and Roll,” perfect for blasting in your car on a long drive with the windows down, and romantic, heavily pop leaning second single “Show You Off” which was a top 25 hit at country radio for the pair. They closed their set with their first ever single, “Summer of 19 You + Me,” the track that truly put them on the map in the country music world. With slick melodies and pop influenced production, paired with honey smooth vocal harmonies and an undeniably catchy singalong chorus, it is no surprise that this was the song that helped to launch Dan + Say’s career. The crowd knew all the words and sang along until the last-minute. By the end of their set it was apparent why the duo is viewed as one of the most exciting young acts in country music.
Headliner and country heart-throb Jake Owen finally took the stage to a frenzied crowd who were undoubtedly ready for a party. Since 2011 his album, Barefoot Blue Jean Night, has garnered four consecutive number one hits, making Owen one of country music’s biggest stars. Known for his laid back personality, easygoing charm, and overflowing abundance of charisma, the 34-year-old from Florida is the ultimate performer. Thursday, he brought his stylish new haircut along with a plethora of hits and beach themed stage setup to Philadelphia with every intention of providing fans with an incredible night of music. His set this night was appropriately decked out with a beachy style, complete with stage decorations featuring Christmas lights encircling Palm trees, a wood and rope boardwalk , hula skirts for much of his band equipment, and fully stocked beach bars on each side of the stage. The production and lighting used during his set was also top-notch, with five enormous HD flat-screens bedecking the stage behind Owen, and dozens of multi-colored strobe lights bathing the performers with bright blues, reds, purples, and oranges.
Owen opened his set with his most recent #1 hit from his 2013 album Days Of Gold, the sun drenched, reggae influenced “Beachin.'” The feel-good, romantic “Anywhere With You,” the fourth and final #1 single from Barefoot Blue Jean Night had fans singing along enthusiastically, while fellow #1 smash hit from the same album “Alone With You” soon followed. The latter featured Owen sporting a guitar strung liberally with bright blue Christmas lights and the fans chanting the chorus out loudly and in-synch on their own when prompted. Towards the end of his set, he played yet another #1 single from Barefoot Blue Jean Night, the nostalgic “The One That Got Away,” a fan favorite with a rocking guitar solo, and impromptu freestyle lyrics during the bridge.
The laid back vocalist threw it back to 2006 and 2009 respectively with performances of debut top 20 single “Yee Haw,” off his first album Startin’ With Me, and the hard rocking, fast paced “8 Second Ride,” a top 15 single from his album Easy Does It. He also included the heartfelt “Don’t Think I Can’t Love You,” a song that supports the sentiment that love is more important in life than money or possessions. From old right back to new, Owen broke out his current single “Real Life” with a cameo from David from the viral YouTube “David After the Dentist.” The song is a definite departure from both Owen’s usual sound and the sounds prevalent in modern, mainstream country music, making it a polarizing one within the genre. From his 2012 Endless Summer EP, Owen performed the spirited, rock leaning track “Surefire Feeling.” The song features thrashing electric guitars and an uptempo pace that makes it perfect for a live setting.
Days Of Gold featured prominently in his set, with performances of album tracks “Tall Glass of Something” and “1972,” in addition to singles “What We Aint Got” and “Days Of Gold.” The two aforementioned singles happen to be polar opposites, with the former allowing Owen to slow it down a bit and allow the focus to shift to his vocals and the profoundness of the lyrics, while the former is loud and intense, hurtling along at a frenetic, breakneck pace from beginning to end. Owen also covered Garth Brooks song “Unanswered Prayers” in celebration of Brooks’ recent signing with Owen’s longtime label RCA.
Throughout the night, he also made a concerted effort to include all the fans in the venue, even those way in the back. The best way he made this happen was intermittently inviting fans from the back to come up and watch from side stage, as he did mid-way through his set with fans who he saw holding up a sign saying “Is this real life?”. Owen also took time out of his set to thank the American troops for their service, and express gratitude to his fans for always lifting him up. He ended the night with the biggest song of his career to date, “Barefoot Blue Jean Night” the first #1 single off of his album of the same name. Kelsea Ballerini rejoined Owen on stage for the song. With laid back vibe and an atmospheric, sing-a-long chorus, mixed with a little bit of banjo and a touch of Owen’s twangy vocals “Barefoot Blue Jean Night” had the crowd bellowing the lyrics into the stadium. In the middle of the song, they cut seamlessly into a “Fresh Prince of Bellaire” cover, playing on the fact that they were performing for a Philly crowd before jumping back to BBJN and finishing out the show on a high note.
Jake Owen, Dan + Shay and Kelsea Ballerini successfully brought a night of county music fun to Philadelphia on a Thursday night. They provided fans with a lineup that highlighted an inclusive blend of several prominent styles of country music and put on a show that the crowd won’t soon forget.