After seeing Florida Georgia Line in concert Saturday night (11/2/13) at the U.S. Cellular Center, I totally get why this dynamic duo is shattering records on either side of the Mason-Dixon Line.
College buddies Brian Kelley (Florida) and Tyler Hubbard (Georgia) are so hot they’re welding country, urban and metal sounds into a hick-hop amalgam that blurs all those boundaries. No doubt that’s why hip-hopper Nelly hopped onboard for an updated version of “Cruise” that has made FGL a crossover sensation.
It feels like the duo just burst onto the scene, rocketing to super-stardom with the 2012 debut album, “Here’s to the Good Times.” Hubbard told the Cedar Rapids throng that he and Kelley have actually been slogging it out like all the other hopefuls, recalling the days when they’d sometimes play to three audience members.
Those days are done.
The band shattered records at the U.S. Cellular Center by selling out all 6,000 tickets in 3 minutes Sept. 13. That’s right. Three minutes. Welcome to the Internet age.
The band also shattered eardrums, with fans screaming louder than tweens at a Taylor Swift concert. Looking around the arena, it sure felt like even more than 6,000 mostly 20-somethings were filling every nook and cranny for the party FGL delivered.
Imagine Dragons’ “Radioactive” pulsed through the air as the lights went down — a brilliant song choice for the explosion to come when the curtain dropped, revealing Kelley and Hubbard alongside their drummer on the high platform, with their guitarists and bass player rockin’ the stage floor.
Smoke plumes shooting skyward and blinding lights sweeping over the crowd couldn’t overpower Kelley and Hubbard’s sincerity and genuine love of letting the good times roll.
They’re good guys with an edge. Kelley, all clean-cut with his short hair, jeans, dark blue T-shirt and denim vest, is the perfect complement to Hubbard, a little badder with his long hair, torn jeans and white muscle shirt showing off his sculpted, tattooed guns.
They literally played everything off their debut album, from “Party People” and “Tip it Back” to the final encore of “Cruise,” and just never let up for a second. They even tossed in a couple of cool covers, paying tribute to Alabama with “I’m in a Hurry (And Don’t Know Why)” and Bruno Mars’ “Grenade.” They slowed down the latter, giving it a much sexier edge, before launching into a full-force rock beat to bring it home.
In an earlier interview, Hubbard hit the nail on the head when he told The Gazette the key to FGL’s success is that they’re “real dudes and people can sense that.” That came through loud and clear all night long.
The key to lasting success will be the band’s ability to bridge genres and lifestyles. They’re clean-cut, but edgy. Bass player Tom Beaupre sports a mohawk and mad instrumental skills (as do all the players). Their music is complex and layered, but the hooks are catchy and the lyrics are easy for fans to grab hold of and sing along.
Best of all, when they talk to their fans, you know they’re the real deal. When Hubbard invites you to embrace every moment because “we’re never promised a tomorrow,” the sentiment is genuine, because he knows the pain of having his dad die too soon. “Our responsibility is to live life to the fullest, so let’s make this night something we’ll never forget,” he said.
Florida Georgia Line did just that.
Opening act Tyler Farr, a good-time guy in a camo jacket, got the joint jumping as the crowd gathered. The Missouri native used all the lighting bells and whistles to kick off the party with cuts from his new CD, “Redneck Crazy.” He lives up that title, with fan-friendly tunes like “Makes You Wanna Drink,” “Whiskey in My Water” and “Chicks, Trucks and Beer,” which featured the next artist on the bill, Colt Ford.
Farr’s band adds lots of crunchy guitar and Ford brings in a fiddler who could rival Charlie Daniels. In fact, Ford looks like a young Charlie Daniels, and we even heard a little “Devil Went Down to Georgia” rolled into “Mr. Goodtime.” Ford seldom sings, using spoken word, instead, which seemed to resonate with the crowd that chimed in.
Fans got their money’s worth, with the concert spanning three hours. And with the wild ride FGL is on, it’s obvious fans are ready to rock this new kind of country.
You might also like: