It was a night of great music at The Dallas Bull, located on the outskirts of Tampa on April 25th; headliner Brett Eldredge and local Florida native Michael Ray brought a sold out crowd to the venue, filling it to capacity where people were almost standing on top of each other.
Ray opened the show with such intensity that the back of his drummer’s shirt flew up within in the first few beats. Bringing a rocky edge to country classics such as Gary Allan’s “Right Where I Need to Be”, Lynyrd Skynryrd’s “Simple Man” and Garth Brooks’ “Friends in Low Places”, Ray was an interactive force on stage, taking selfies with fans in the first few rows while seamlessly switching between songs on his set list. The Florida native showed appreciation to his home state and you could tell he had a large following at the venue that night; front and center were what I describe as ‘originals’, fans who knew and supported him before he signed a deal with Warner Music Nashville that sang along with original songs on and off his EP. Being crowned the winner of the CW show “The Next” under mentor John Rich of Big & Rich back in 2012 may have gotten Ray his foot in the door but it’s his charisma, humility, and amazing voice that will make him a household name.
To steal a lyric from Brett Eldredge’s current single “Beat of the Music”, that man has soul and he knows how to use it.
Already a fan of his, my interest peaked when his prelude music included Stevie Wonder’s “Sign, Sealed, Delivered” and Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean”; this was not just another country act. At promptly 10:32pm the band members started slowly hitting the stage to the beat of a large bass drum, emblemed with an enormous “BE” in the center of the stage. At 10:34pm Eldredge hit the state, looking utterly dapper in a black jacket, silver button-down and tight black pants, he was graced with an eruption so loud from the crowd it shook the walls of the country hall.
“Who wants to get sexy on a Friday night?” Eldredge asked the crowd before breaking into his third song of the night, “On and On”; to see BOTH men and women fawning over a male performer in country music is a rarity, but the look on the attendees faces showed that Brett was more than just your average country artist. Before breaking into “One Mississippi” for a bit of a more relaxed set.
Eldredge opened the lid of his piano to display a fully stocked bar, pouring himself a glass of whiskey from a glass canister. The sold-out and tightly packed crowd illuminated The Dallas Bull with their cell phone lights during “Mean to Me”, wanted to embrace Eldredge while spoke of his grandmother’s battle with Alzheimers disease before breaking into his first single, “Raymond”, and brought full intensity on the dance floor when the pace picked back up with “Tell Me Where to Park” and his cover of Bob Seger’s “Night Moves”.
Every audience member knew the lines to every song he performed and the beam of delight resonated off of Eldredge and his bandmates; “I remember the first time I played here maybe two people knew who I was and knew a few of my songs”, Brett said while taking a pause before busting into his chart topping hit, “Don’t Ya”. With the audience singing so loudly that the artist was drowned out……. It’s apparent that being unrecognized no longer be an issue. Before exiting the stage, Eldredge took the time to autograph every phone case, photo, and in some cases body parts, handed to him within reach of the stage.
When asked why she came out, attendee Darla Asher said “He has his own unique style compared to other artists today. That’s what attracted me to his music. And he looks a bit like Bradley Cooper”. Yes, Brett Eldredge possesses a classiness that many artists, let alone men around his young age of 28, do not. He’s a loveable goof-ball (check out his Twitter for proof) but Eldredge resonates a ‘Rat-Pack’ era of sophistication while keeping himself relevant in today’s country world.
If he finds himself in a town near you, you better go. Plain and simple. You can find a listing of his tour dates at www.bretteldredge.com and make sure to grab a copy of his phenomenal album “Bring You Back” available via iTunes and Amazon, HERE, or at your local music retailer. This man has a huge career ahead of him, make sure to be a part of it.