Billy Currington Comes Home

“Eye to eye, lips on lips, swayin' to the music, real close, we could both use a little, let go kinda night,” crooned country king and Savannah son Billy Currington during the verse to one of his more recent hits, “Don’t It,” Thursday night.  It’s the kind of song best manifested in a chorus of a thousand fans swaying their drinks and phones in time with the set’s percussionist.  The catchy, two-word refrain sells itself with “let loose” lyrics, just the salt to an evening all about the sweet anticipation of summer.   


This is my second outing with Currington in concert, and I’ve come to the conclusion nothing ignites a crowd of country fans more than beer stands and a good, swayin’ guitar song.  The singer/songwriter applied this footnote comfortably in his fun set at the Savannah Civic Center Thursday night. 


The proof was ubiquitous as I observed (and counted myself among) multi-generational clusters of Currington fans.  Red bracelet-cladded folks and younger fans wandered into the Martin Luther King Jr. arena’s strobe-light rage with security and ushers handy.  The vibe was country from the parking lot, and nothing seemed to pause or slow the momentum other than the breaks between each set.   


As the warm-up to opening act Kelsea Ballerini, new country trio Levon showed they had the energy to match their headliner counterparts.  Made up of three musicians, Michael David Hall, Jake Singleton, Ryan Holladay, the Nashville-based band discovered the key to keeping the not-yet-full house engaged: keep the drums loud, the guitar blasting, and the lyrics catchy, especially when you’re the opener to the opener. 

Hall’s voice enhanced Singleton’s drums and Holladay’s guitar, satisfying both the audience members already standing in the pits and those still trying to find their seats.  The group is slated to release their debut album this year, and one can hope their exposure alongside Ballerini and Currington will stimulate their growth.  They deserve it.      


Rising country sweetheart Ballerini revved up the amp with her thumping yet thoughtful melodies, all while keeping the anxious fans in front entertained while waiting for Currington.  Ballerini is the country artist you don’t know by name but by number one’s, and for her these were her two big hits, “Love Me Like You Mean It,” and, “Dibs.”  The 22-year-old Mascot, Tennessee native’s career has accelerated since she first released “Love Me Like You Mean It” two years ago with her debut album, The First Time.  2016 is looking to Ballerini’s best yet, affirmed with her recent win for “New Female Vocalist of the Year” at the ACM (American Country Music awards) Sunday April 3. 


Her set highlighted the young, independent twenty-something cautious about relationships but confident in her dreams and plans for a good time in spite of what people say.  Standout numbers included the melancholy “Stilettos” and “Peter Pan,” the latter sure to be her next big hit.  It was Ballerini’s sincerity, spunk, and crystal voice that reinforced her ability to open a show for a big name like Currington.        


Currington came on around 9:15, about a half hour following Ballerini’s temporary departure (she joined the country star onstage during his encore for a fabulous cover of Meghan Trainor and John Legend’s duet “Like I’m Gonna Lose You.”).  He stepped out and stood center stage for a long second, probably taking in the hue of the blue illuminations prefiguring his next hour and twenty minutes onstage.  After opening with “Don’t It,” Currington owned his hometown audience and fans with one hit after another.  Among fan-favorites were “People Are Crazy,” “Must Be Doin’ Somethin’ Right,” and “That’s How Country Boys Roll.”  Currington kept his crowd waiting for his most famous number, “Good Directions,” up until the second-to-last number in his encore, after which he introduced and thanked his band with a cover of Walk the Moon’s “Shut Up and Dance.”


Whether the song was a number one or a new single, hands consistently waved and thrusted their cold beverages to the ceiling’s vantage point (especially during the rousing, “Pretty Good at Drinkin' Beer.”).  Such spoke to the durability of Currington’s music career, one with humble beginnings in Nashville after high school then in Georgia at the Cavalier Country Club.  There was no doubt the Peach State was on the artist’s mind.  He referenced its impact multiple times, mentioning notable spots in Savannah to the crowd’s delight and approval.  Near the end of his set, Currington bore the clarity and twang in his pipes for a terrific rendition of “Georgia On My Mind.”  His voice sounded just as fine and husky as that of the country boy listeners fell for thirteen years ago with the release of his debut album, Billy Currington


At 42, Currington shows no signs of slowing down, jovially displayed in his active performance and the songs he promoted from his latest album, Summer Forever.  He’s loving, living, and having a ball at an age where most people worry about kids and marriage.  If he is worried, it never showed Thursday night.  No matter what new relationships Currington fosters, they pale in comparison to the enduring love and support he shares with his hometown. 

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