Thunder 106 brought up – and – coming country artist Kelsea Ballerini to Starland Ballrom in Sayerville, NJ, for what promised to be a rocking night of female country artists. Kelsea Ballerini was supported by North Dakota’s Hailey Steele and NJ native Madeline Smith. Starland Ballroom has been hosting a slew of talented country artists in the recent months including Kip Moore and Michael Ray on the Wild Ones Tour and the upcoming show on February 14th with Dustin Lynch and Chris Lane.
Madeline Smith opened up the evening with a mix of her own songs and various covers of popular country songs to get the crowd engaged and involved. Among the covers played by Smith were “We Were Us” by Keith Urban and Miranda Lambert, a good choice for a local artist to catch the attention of the crowd with a song they could sing along to, and her closing song, another by the extremely talented Miranda Lambert, “Mama’s Broken Heart”.
Hailey Steele was up next after travelling from North Dakota to play two shows with Kelsea Ballerini, this show in NJ and the show the next day in Boston, MA. Steele took the stage with nothing but her guitar and strong vocals to captivate the crowd. She too played a good mix of songs including some of her more popular music from 2014 and 2015. “Another Like You”, an original by Steele was one of her most popular of the evening drawing strong favor from the crowd. The other song that seemed to stand out most with the crowd was “I Want Your Boyfriend” with a catchy chorus and highly relatable lyrics.
By the time Kelsea Ballerini was set to take the stage the crowd was more than ready to see what the 22 year old, up – and – coming country artist would bring to the stage. Ballerini took the stage with command and confidence of someone well beyond her years. She has a stage presence and charismatic personality that sets her apart from many other rising artists and will enable her to continue to grow as a musician.
Ballerini kicked things off with “Looking at Stars” off her first full length release, The First Time (2015). She continued on with a mix off songs off that record that had the crowd engaged and singing along including “Sirens” and her most recent single “Dibs” which was clearly a fan favorite from the crowd’s strong reaction. She carried on into “Peter Pan” which she introduced as a song for all of the girls who have encountered a guy that refuses to grow up and act his age, which is entirely relatable to the demographic of her fan base and the song “Stilettos, another relatable song for young girls about moving on from heartbreak and carrying on with your life. Ballerini is one of the stand out female artists in country currently that have been making a splash on country music radio with her strong willed, confident lyrics that resonate very strongly with the younger generation of country fans which is why she will continue to amass a dedicated fan base.
A highlight of the evening was her cover of Little Big Town’s “Girl Crush” in which she enlisted the help Hailey Steele and had the entire crowd singing along emphatically as the two young women commanded the stage together. Ballerini ended the night on a very strong and memorable note with the spunky “XO” once again showing off her confident and spunky flare, and her most recognizable song, “Love Me Like You Mean It”. Ballerini took the country music world by storm with this song reaching gold as well as number one on the Billboard Country Airplay with her debut single. She is among ten other women in history to achieve such a feat including Carry Underwood most recently in 2006. Ballerini has had a lot going for her since her start and has capitalized on the many opportunities she has earned including her most recent nationwide tour opening for Jake Owen and Dan + Shay.
The night was a memorable concert with three talented young women looking to make a name for themselves in country music. Each showed great potential to carry on and further their careers. It will not be long until Ballerini, especially, is preforming on much larger stages much like the ones she was on during her fall tour.