Music

High-energy Luke Bryan meets low-key Carrier Dome crowd

Moriah Ratner | Staff Photographer

Luke Bryan took the stage Saturday night to a sold-out Carrier Dome.

Luke Bryan didn’t want this night to end, but some audience members sure did.

Though still several songs away from the encore of Bryan’s set, the audience started leaving in droves. But at this point, after opening acts Dustin Lynch and Little Big Town, the show had already stretched on for more than three hours.

Saturday night’s sold-out show in the Carrier Dome was part of Luke Bryan’s “Kill the Lights” Tour, which started in February and will make stops nationwide through October. Starting at 7:30 p.m. and eventually lasting more than four hours, the show was filled with Bryan’s biggest hits and several cover songs — but not the tour’s title track.

Cars and pick-up trucks started filling Dome parking well before doors opened at 6 p.m. With so many vehicles crowding onto the Syracuse University campus, students were issued email notices about slow-moving traffic around show time. They were also encouraged to come early to the show itself.

But all the emails didn’t seem to dilute traffic inside the Dome. Though Lynch took the stage at 7:30, fans were still packed behind the stands, grabbing beers and waiting in bathroom lines.

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Moriah Ratner | Staff Photographer

Some seats were still empty as Little Big Town took the stage later that night. The four-person group marched around the stage, which included a runway and smaller stage that extended far into the floor seats. When a member of the group wasn’t taking his or her turn as lead singer, they picked up a guitar or tambourine as they sang backup vocals.

Little Big Town rotated from popular tracks like “Little White Church” and “Day Drinking” to lesser known songs. Still, audience members generally remained seated until the band broke out into number one hit “Girl Crush.” The Dome went black, save for purple lighting onstage and a giant projection of a disco ball, which sent scattered lighting across the stands. At this point, audience members started belting out the words and swaying along with the slow beat.

After two lengthy openers, the audience seemed ready for the headlining performance. Many exited the stands once again to grab another beer, but filled the bleachers to capacity before Bryan took the stage.

And when he did, it was explosive. Fans rose to their feet and started singing along to Bryan’s early hit “Rain is a Good Thing.” The energy didn’t let up during his next song, “Kick the Dust Up.”

Bryan reflected that energy during party songs like the first two. He ran around the stage, never pausing until those first two tracks ended.

Then, Bryan transitioned into a succession of slower songs. His track “Roller Coaster” was prefaced with rattling coaster noises and featured a first-person view of a beachside ride on the screen behind Bryan. During these songs, a beach ball started making its way around the floor seats, but fans higher up settled back down on the bleachers once again.

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Moriah Ratner | Staff Photographer

At any concert, headliners are expected to give a shout out to opening acts. Bryan took this a step further, first bringing out Karen Farchild of Little Big Town to sing their duet “Home Alone Tonight,” which is currently dominating airwaves.

Then, the entirety of Little Big Town came back onstage as a familiar tune broke out from the band — the four person set, along with Bryan, started singing Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud.”

This was just one of many covers Bryan performed that night. And they weren’t all singer-songwriter or country hits. “Thinking Out Loud” turned into Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On,” but not before Bryan pulled out a bottle of tequila and did two shots on stage. A stagehand had cleared his beer off the stage at some point during the performance, so Bryan stopped the show to ask someone to bring it back.

From there, the show turned into the country fest it was expected to be. Bryan thanked fans for filling the Dome and making it “the biggest country show” this arena had ever seen.

Stagehands brought a giant cooler full of beer onto the stage, and Dustin Lynch joined Bryan to cover Brooks & Dunn’s “Play Something Country.” Bryan kept cracking open beers, but poured more onto the stage and audience than into his mouth.

The theme continued with songs like “Drink a Beer” and “Drunk on You,” where Bryan sat down and strummed on an acoustic guitar. But these tunes also had a melancholy vibe, as Bryan declared “country music lost a legend this week,” referencing the death of Merle Haggard.

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Moriah Ratner | Staff Photographer

Despite the sentiment and Bryan’s continued enthusiasm, audience members started shuffling out of the arena during these low-key songs.

But Bryan didn’t seem to notice, and if he did, he didn’t care. He kicked up the tempo again with “All My Friends Say” and “That’s My Kind of Night” before exiting the stage for about a minute.

After a brief period of darkness, Bryan raced back on stage to a cheering crowd — or at least what was left of it. He then busted out one of his biggest hits, “Country Girl (Shake it for Me),” and fans obliged the song’s title request. The biggest surprise of the night came during this song, when Bryan briefly transitioned into a cover of Jason Derulo’s “Talk Dirty,” which was met with huge cheers.

At this point, it was obvious that covers of everything from classic R&B to modern hip-hop really stuck with the audience. So during his last song, “I Don’t Want This Night To End,” he threw in a few lines from The Weeknd’s “Can’t Feel My Face.”

Throughout it all, Bryan really seemed like he didn’t want the night to end. He never stopped running up and down the stage and runway, never stopped tossing beer cans into the crowd.

Even though he had stopped singing and the band was playing an obvious outro, Bryan lingered onstage. He took his time heading back up the runway, slapping audience members’ hands and even pausing for a selfie, before slowly walking back behind the stage to cheers from what was left of the crowd.

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