Day three dawned brightly with the thought of seeing TC3 and Tim McGraw, however an email from PayPal confirming a rather strange payment meant three hours sorting out a hacked account. Phone calls to England, updating passwords meant not getting to the venue until the end of Drake White’s set, a cover of 4 Non-Blondes ‘What’s Up’. With temperatures hitting the high 90’s, shade was the way to go.
With the House of Blues offering a place to drink in the shade, Sunday football and a covers band between sets, it was the perfect place to sit and chill until The Cadillac Three. Whilst nipping round the back to pick up a Jana Krama koozie I noticed that there were stairs leading to the roof of the bar. Walking up the stairs, there was a viewing platform of the entire show ground, with lush green fake grass & a bar to keep you hydrated.
With Jaren and the boys about to start it felt like the perfect place to sit and enjoy the music. TC3 are no strangers to the UK and if you missed them this year, where were you? Supported by Whisky Myers, the Cardiff gig was one I’ll never forget, but that’s another review. This is Southern rock for the new generation. With ‘I’m Southern’ booming out the amps, we were off. If you don’t know Jaren also writes songs for everyone else and with that we were treated to their version of ‘Raise ‘Em Up’ along with the ‘Days Of Gold’, is this theirs or Jake Owens? This was top stuff so early on. With the boys finishing on ‘The South’ it was an incredibly strong set.
My beer refreshed, Fireball Whiskey topped up and the largest barbecued turkey leg I have ever seen, it was time for Chase Rice. I did manage to catch Chase back in April in Dallas and wasn’t particularly impressed. I wondered whether it was the sound was set up wrong, so was really looking forward to seeing him again. Different venue, different set up, same result. Kicking off with ‘How She Rolls’, all I got was a weak vocal, very difficult to hear over the music. Where that finished and “Do It Like This’ started, I just don’t know. ‘50 Shades Of Crazy’ promptly followed, there may have been audience participation before, during and after the track it was hard to tell. Curiously, what did come across really well was the intro to “Smoke A Little Smoke” which kick started a little medley including Def Leppard and Bon Jovi. That did get me going. Closing the set out with his version of the monster smash ‘Cruise’ and ‘Ready Set Roll’ I just felt underwhelmed and disappointed….again. Still with Jake Owen and Tim McGraw to come there was plenty of time to hit the heights.
Kicking off with ‘Fire’ the lead single from the Illinois album all the sound issues from the Chase Rice’s set seemed to vanish. Whilst not an artist I regularly listen to, it’s surprising how many Brett Eldredge songs I knew. This helps when trying to review concerts, knowing artist’s songs help immensely. It saves you trying to google various song lyrics. As I said previously this is relatively simple at the start of a show, but a few hours in and lots of alcohol imbibed, heaven help you. Still ‘Beat Of The Music’ and the lush ‘Lose My Mind’ with the Gnarls Barkley riff help. It takes a brave man to cover Sinatra, especially in Vegas, but Eldredge gave it a fine go with ‘Fly Me To The Moon’. Finishing with set with ‘Don’t Ya’, it was a polished performance from the Illinois man. Just hope you managed to catch him around the UK this month.
I’d been a fan of ‘Barefoot Blue Jean Night’ since hearing the title track, but wasn’t sure whether Jake Owen could pull of being the penultimate act of the entire weekend. How wrong I was. Whether it was a spine-tingling cover of Chris Isaak’s ‘Wicked Game’ or his sheer audacity to cover ‘The Dance’, he pulled everything off. Coming on stage looking like he fell off the no shoes nation tour bus, shorn of his long locks to the bubbly ‘Beachin’ before taking us back to ‘1972’. With a little interlude to talk to his mum about bootie calls – she was listening on satellite radio – before we got ‘Alone With You’. Owen was rocking and the aforementioned Isaak cover just blew me away. Coming back down to earth with “Real Life” before we had a triple cover play covering Brooks & Dunn, Garth Brooks and another Alan Jackson. Like Lady A the night before, there must have been 25,000 people singing every word. Finishing on “Barefoot.” before an encore of Van Halen ‘Jump’, I can honestly say that Owen was one of the standout performers of the entire weekend. Oodles of charm and a great singing voice, if you get a chance to see him, go.
On to the final headliner of the weekend and they saved the best for last. With McGraw pulling out of his two previous concerts due to voice problems, there was some trepidation leading up to the weekend. I needn’t have worried. A full on 90 minute gig with a big focus on his back catalogue. Sure we got ‘Top Of The World’, ‘Diamond Rings’ and ‘Shotgun Rider’ but we also got ‘Down On The Farm’ and ‘Indian Outlaw’. Strutting across the stage in ripped jeans, white t-shirt and black hat, the powerhouse performer just doesn’t stop. I cannot remember much talk between songs, it felt like he just wanted to party. Whether it was ‘Last Dollar’ written by Big Kenny after a disastrous night in Vegas or the crowd pleasing ‘One of Those Nights’, McGraw lapped the crowd up. Time moves too fast when you’re having the time of your life and before I knew it we were in the final minutes of the night. Finishing the evening on ‘Cowboy In Me’ McGraw left the stage but you knew he’d be back for his encore. Coming back on we got a perfect cover of ‘Tiny Dancer’, like all the tunes on Lionel Richie’s Tuskegee cover (?) album, Elton John’s classic just sounds right with a little bit of country added into the mix. It’s a standout track from the Dancehall Doctors album, but live it’s so much better. Dipping back into his history he pulled out ‘Mexicoma’ another old favourite of mine. No McGraw concert though would be complete without ‘Live Like You Were Dying’, a soaring, life affirming ballad. The wild applause lasted for an eon, but it was over for another year and the walk back to the hotel began again.
After three mad days and nights, would I go back to Route 91? In a heartbeat!
So book those flights, grab your tickets and get yourself to Vegas. This is one festival where you won’t be disappointed!