If someone eventually reveals that Luke Bryan is a robot built by scientists trying to create the ideal country-music superstar, count us as among those who will not be at all surprised.
First, no human should be able to breathe while wearing pants that tight. More important proof: Just one day after taking a nasty spill off the stage at his concert in North Carolina, Bryan displayed over-the-top, full-force energy during his Friday night show at Jiffy Lube Live, as if nothing had happened.
After all, some stitches can’t slow down one of Nashville’s biggest hitmakers. Bryan proved that during a frenetic, 90-minute set in Bristow, Va., the first of two consecutive nights at the venue that holds about 25,000.
The feat is just one more in the long list of accomplishments to which Georgia-bred Bryan has brought his seemingly unfailing Midas touch over the past several years.
His successes include dominance on country radio, an impressive bundle of No. 1 songs, millions of albums sold, accolades from the big award shows and, as of this week, showing off his biceps on the cover of People magazine’s Country’s Sexiest Men issue.
Compared with his Nashville peers, Bryan, 37, doesn’t have the most impressive voice, but what he lacks in vocal range he makes up for with miles of charm and the ability to act as if he never takes anything too seriously. His infectious everyman persona appeals to a huge swath of the young country audience: the ladies, along with the party bros who have their arms slung around those ladies.
“I want to see a whole lot of frisky if you’re drinking whiskey,” Bryan yelled at the beginning of the night, semi-quoting his own “Rain Is a Good Thing” as he broke into the song. He started with a guitar in hand but quickly tossed it aside, opting to run around with the microphone and show off his moves, including the swivel-hip booty-shaking that has made him a YouTube favorite. As usual, he emphasized certain words with his hips, strategically drawing out shrieks with his gyrations.
Clothed in his signature epically tight pants and a baseball cap, along with a T-shirt that read “Where My Beaches At,” Bryan rattled off the usual hits and old-school audience favorites (the drunken-party ode “All My Friends Say”; the twangy “Someone Else Calling You Baby”; the mournful love song “Do I”). Plus all the singles from his latest album, “Crash My Party,” such as the title track and the bouncy “That’s My Kind of Night,” the solemn ballad “Drink a Beer” and the ridiculously catchy “Play It Again.” That last — about the simple joy of hearing your new favorite tune on the radio — went to the top of the country charts in the past week, making it Bryan’s 10th career No. 1 hit.
Typically too busy dancing and taking audience selfies for chit-chat during his performance, Bryan did take the time to point out the spot where he toppled from the stage in North Carolina the previous night. “I will try not to fall,” he promised.
He was true to his word, although opening acts Cole Swindell (Bryan’s singer-songwriter protege) and Lee Brice couldn’t resist poking fun: At one point, the two sneaked up behind him onstage and placed a helmet on his head. Bryan happily played along, and he enlisted the pair to help him toss beers out to the crowd.
But, to be clear, you don’t get to be the genre’s leading man by just being a fun, goofy guy. Bryan is nothing if not calculating about his aw-shucks image, playing the “regular guy from Georgia” card with a music catalogue focused on dirt roads, truck tailgates and simple living.
“Can’t get these kind of muscles anywhere but a farm,” he sang during “Country Man,” flexing his arms. (A popular country radio DJ recently talked about seeing Bryan driving a Maserati around Nashville; Bryan asked him to be discreet, as in, “You know, talk about my truck.”)
That type of self-editing can lead to appearing fake or, worse, boring.
Bryan is obviously a wealthy guy these days, far removed from his core audience in material terms, yet he still manages to seem one with the people, and the audience loves him for it. A father of two, Bryan might look like a dorky dad grooving onstage, but he makes everyone want to dance with him.
Or he really is engineered to make fans worship his every move. During the encore, his smash toe-tapper “Country Girl (Shake It for Me),” Bryan went full-out spastic, leading the crowd in an epic dance party. It was done with — dare we say? — robotic precision.