LIVE REVIEW: HARDY and Morgan Wallen in Mansfield, MA (07.12.19)
The face of country music is continuously changing, be it crossover artists of the Taylor Swift variety and Florida Georgia Line’s feature on the huge Bebe Rexha hit last summer, “Meant to Be,” to the old school country variety that is starting to shine through like Morgan Wallen and Luke Combs. Lucky for me, two of these acts found their way to Mansfield Friday night on the Florida Georgia Line headlining tour with Morgan Wallen joined by fellow newcomer HARDY and current country fan favorites Dan & Shay.
That blend of artists on the bill and how well it works together shined through when it came to the sold-out crowd of almost 20,000 (19,900 to be exact) for sure. There were clear lines drawn between the crowd of who was there mostly for the latter two acts versus the first two acts, and I was happy to be on track with the first two. You had those drinking beverages out of shakers to those drinking all the Miller Lite, but whatever beverage you found yourself drinking, it was a supportive music-loving crowd who amped up each artist despite maybe not knowing them so well before the show. But both openers, Hardy and Morgan Wallen, had their fans in the audience and that’s a testament to the new country radio play situation where these new artists are getting their fair chance at radio.
While the crowd wasn’t the fullest for that moment when Hardy walked on stage to open the night, fans were quick to fill in within about five minutes of the fifteen-minute set or so Hardy had on stage. But those fifteen minutes, he made the true best of it. With very similar vibes to Wallen, who admitted on stage later that ‘No bias, but Hardy is my best friend in the world,’ it only made sense that the crowd that had come into the amphitheater was fully there for it. Considering the number of bands that would be gracing the stage that night, Hardy had limited space but made the best of it and came out to a huge roar from those in attendance.
Hardy has started a name for himself, be it his material that has his name on it on the radio radar with “REDNECKER” to songs he’s written for other people which include the current #1 on the radio with Blake Shelton’s “God’s Country” to his fellow tour mate’s track “Up Down”, which in regards he quipped, “I have this strange feeling you’ll hear this song later tonight”. “WHERE TO FIND ME” had the crowd roaring with the song playing tribute to where he came from being from Mississippi which came right before the last track of the evening where Hardy quipped, considering Boston is just a sweet thirty minutes or so from the venue which seemed like a different world, “I know we’re real close to a big city but where are my rednecks out there?” which the crowd went off to with the final track of the set and his current big radio hit following, “REDNECKER”. The track prompted a bunch of phones going up in the audience and set up a pre-cursor to what was to come with a friend of Hardy in Morgan Wallen’s set.
In the fifteen minutes or so that passed between sets, the amphitheater truly filled up and for a good reason. The last time I saw Morgan Wallen play was a solid maybe 4:00 pm set where he played to maybe three hundred people at Country Thunder in Wisconsin last summer. Friday was a whole different story. The crowd this time when Wallen took the stage? About 90 % of the crowd in attendance. Wallen over the last year has seen his career truly gone where no one probably thought it would in such a short period and with just his debut album out. He sold out a thousand capacity venue on his last headliner in Boston just a few months ago and his success showed in his set Friday night. That three-hundred-person crowd quickly surpassed to a solid 19k Friday night with his plaid aesthetic splashed out amongst his background screen and his band coming out full force to introduce him to the audience and pump up the crowd. The pump up worked as the crowd went off the second Wallen walked on the stage starting out the set strong with “Whatcha Know ‘Bout That”. Sliding right into a personal stand out track for me with “Happy Hour”, Wallen zoomed his way through the short 25 minutes or so he had on stage, but he had the crowd wrapped around his finger through out the set. Pretty early into the set, Wallen sang his break out hit “Up Down” that features the headliners of the tour Florida Georgia Line, which have may seemed surprising to the crowd but for those that have been following Wallen, the track while it may have enticed initial listeners, Wallen has proved to be much more then just a party country guy. His full-length album was an introduction to a whole other side of Wallen that has ensured his fan base. These hits came out in the second half of the set with “If I Know Me”, “Chasin’ You”, which is his next single to country radio and of course “Whiskey Glasses”.
Wallen is the perfect balance of hitting those love songs but also providing the country grit people have been falling over him for. Both Hardy and Morgan Wallen have long careers in front of them and was the perfect duo of artists to open the show. The tour is a true blend of old and new country and the crowd was hooked on it. The crowd was singing the words to both artists hits right now and from the smiles on both the guys’ faces, it’s clear they are keeping humble when they could easily not be, and it was a true pleasure to see!