Luke Bryan Live From Irving Plaza

I know I’m supposed to prefer Jason Isbell. I know hipsters love rap and Beats 1. I know the way music used to be, with a mainstream and then an alternative that laughed at those not in the know. I know I live in the internet era where everybody with a bone to pick will try to make me feel inferior…

But I love Luke Bryan and my body tingled when he lit into “Play It Again”
Songs we know by heart. Isn’t that what Jimmy Buffett plays? We’ve all got ’em. On vinyl, cassette, CD and MP3. Tracks burned into our brains, because they just make us feel good. And Luke Bryan’s songs make me feel good. Not jumping up and down crying hallelujah, but rooted in this incomprehensible nation of ours where I so often feel like I don’t fit and don’t have a chance. That’s why I went to the show, that’s why I still go to the show.

And isn’t it interesting that it’s the country stars who can fill stadiums. That’s right, Luke Bryan and Kenny Chesney and Taylor Swift, who made her bones on music with fiddles and banjos. I know it’s not the country music of old, I know it can be pedestrian, but they’re singing about real things I can relate to with good voices and melodies. You want to do nothing so much as sing along.

That’s the essence of the country concert, the singing along. Everybody belting out the words at the top of their lungs. Out of sheer joy. At being in the room with their hero.

That’s right, musicians are the biggest heroes in our nation. Forget politicians, the techies and the public servants. We look up to the singers and players, because they’re the ones who can make our lives all right. Get us happy in the moment. Have us forget our troubles with money and love and life. When that song is playing you don’t have a care in the world. And when you’re at the show it’s a transcendent moment.

You’d think this stream should have taken place in Nashville. But Luke Bryan was in New York doing press for his new album, playing GMA, making the rounds. The last I checked, hip-hop was supposed to be the sound of the city, but one look at this audience would tell you otherwise.

I was alone, at home.

But when Luke Bryan lit into “Play It Again” I was together, with them, with him, basking in the pure sound of a song I’ve played more than any other in the last eighteen months.

Oh my God, this is my song
I’ve been listenin’ to the radio all night long
Sittin’ ’round waitin’ for it to come on and here it is

The opening number was “Kick The Dust Up,” which is sitting at the top of the chart right now. A routine stomper, it was better live than on record, and then…

She was sittin’ all alone over on the tailgate
Tan legs swingin’ by a Georgia plate
I was lookin’ for her boyfriend
Thinkin’, no way she ain’t got one

It starts with an acoustic guitar. And soon enters a groove. And then Luke Bryan sings the above lyrics.

I don’t know about you but my life hasn’t always worked out. I stopped asking girls to dance after too much rejection. My friends listening to records were dateless. Our only hope was the music, it kept us going until we finally ran into someone like-minded who understood us and said yes…to conversation, to truth, touching came long thereafter. And honestly, it’s the music that gave me the confidence, playing in my head.

AM, FM, XM too

That was our only savior, the radio. The deejay was our conduit. Back before there were twenty four minutes of commercials per hour, when we still thought the station was on our side. Back before the history of recorded music was at our fingertips. Those days will never return, we live in an on demand culture. And the question is what will we pull up on demand.

A friend from the Deep South e-mailed me “Drink A Beer” and I needed more, that’s how I got hooked on Luke Bryan.

And Luke played that tonight. Along with “Roller Coaster.”

I should’ve known that kind of feelin’
Would last longer than that week did

That’s right, the tunes are my family, have lasted longer than any love. They don’t change and they keep me warm at night.

“Crash My Party” is on my iPhone.

I’ve listened to it walking to Warm Springs in Sun Valley.

I’ve listened to it lying on the floor doing my back exercises in Vail.

I’ve listened to it hiking in the Santa Monica Mountains.

When everything’s not quite right, or just the opposite, when things are exactly right, I pull up Luke Bryan to ride shotgun. And I wasn’t even planning to watch this Yahoo live stream, if I’d missed it that would have been cool. But when I saw all the people in the audience, in wild anticipation, and when the band hit the stage and started playing the songs I knew by heart…

I knew I was exactly where I wanted to be.

I was back to where I once belonged.

And still do.

P.S. Live shows are parties. Luke played Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” and Taio Cruz’s “Dynamite.” It was about the show, not the ego.

P.P.S. When they turned out all the lights, and all you saw were the glow sticks and phone screens, I could only think…I’ve been there, and I want to be there again.

P.P.P.S. Too much music appeals to only guys or girls. This audience was mixed. Illustrating we’re all in it together. And it wasn’t a sea of color, but at times Luke is closer to rapping than singing and once again, music and its makers are much more integrated than the institutions doing their best to antagonize and keep people apart.

P.P.P.P.S. Used to be we went to the club to hear a band, back before the bands came to us online and we had a plethora of choices at home. We’re interested in hearing the hits. You’ve got ’em and we’re coming, without them it’s a struggle to garner a live audience.

P.P.P.P.P.S. Imperfection, it reigned. Not that there were mistakes, but the music wasn’t seamless, it breathed, it had humanity. The concept is as antique as MTV, that people expect it to be as good live as it is in the video, on the record. No, they just want to feel you’re like them, but different. And through a quirk of fate, they could be you, and if they could get a chance to meet you they’d be thrilled, but the longer you watched Luke Bryan the more normal he appeared. Proving, once again, we’ve all got our own special gifts. And you can win if you stop trying to be like everybody else and just act naturally.

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