Brian Kelley smiled and flung his guitar pick into the crowd. A group near the site of impact scrambled on the floor to get their hands on it.
“Ugh, we were so close,” a girl said, sighing, as she watched the victor clutch the souvenir to her chest. Being front-row at a private concert put on by one of country music’s biggest acts, Florida Georgia Line (commonly known as FGL), would have to suffice.
A sea of camouflage filled the floor of the Anthem on Wednesday night as Kelley, along with bandmate Tyler Hubbard, put on an elaborate show for military personnel and their families, live-streamed to bases around the globe for an event dubbed “The World’s Biggest USO Tour.”
“It’s something we’ve been wanting to do for a long time,” Hubbard said.
Actor Adam Devine (“Workaholics,” “Pitch Perfect“), who has previously toured internationally with the USO, provided comedic entertainment as the evening’s emcee. And Air Force Chief of Staff David L. Goldfein provided accidental comic relief by misnaming Devine.
“I think Andy could give Bob Hope a run for his money,” Goldfein said of Devine’s hosting skills.
“My name is Adam, but I’ll take it,” Devine responded, laughing.
Celebrity chef and Food Network star Robert Irvine, who runs an eponymous foundation dedicated to helping men and women of the armed forces, meandered through the crowd to pose for selfies and provide handshakes. The fit chef jokingly compared arm sizes and flexed with younger servicemen.
“I’m 53!” he exclaimed while touting his physique.
FGL asked the crowd to join in and sing along to “Dirt,” a song that they often dedicate to American troops at concerts. They also gave a shout out to the partners of servicemen and servicewomen while crooning their love ballad “H.O.L.Y.”
“It feels like this particular show has a little bit more meaning,” Hubbard said. “We know there’s going to be a lot of healing in the room, and a lot of good times had and a lot of bad times forgotten.”
And good times certainly seemed to be had.
“I’m unwell,” an overwhelmed woman in the crowd said to a friend as she watched FGL tear up the stage. “This is the best day of my life.”