The stereotypical country concert is a crowd of people wearing cowboy hats tapping their boots to songs about farms, cheating spouses, dogs and pickup trucks.
Morgan Wallen is redefining what country music is, and it was evident in the sold-out crowd that saw him perform Friday night at St. Joseph’s Health Amphitheater at Lakeview in Syracuse. More than 18,000 fans — slightly above the official capacity of St. Joe’s Amp and the biggest draw since Florida Georgia Line’s sold-out show in 2019 — sang their hearts out and fist-banged the Wallen’s greatest hits, including “Up Down”, “7 Summers”. “, “Wasted on You” and “Whiskey Glasses”.
Wallen came out on “Broadway Girls,” his hip-hop collaboration with rapper Lil Durk, then backed by four guitars, plus drums and bass, for a decidedly rock sound. Pyrotechnics ignited the scene as the summer breeze from Onondaga Lake blew through Wallen’s mule. It also had the most elaborate stage lighting I’ve ever seen at the Amp.
The crowd was younger than most recent country shows at the Amp, like Tim McGraw and Jason Aldean, and dressed slightly differently. The ladies wore short shorts and crop tops, and the guys wore backwards baseball caps and sleeveless shirts (a “bare-arm straight” type of audience); some were wearing patriotic clothes (including at least one dude wearing an American flag jumpsuit) or political messages about the second amendment (the other right to bear arms) and someone named Brandon, but the hats and cowboy boots -boy traditional were relatively rare.
It was all confusing if you’ve seen other country shows, but it made sense.
Wallen, who wears a white t-shirt and jeans with a backwards hat, spoke about his mother while carrying a guitar strap that reads “Dangerous.” He sang a song on “The Way I Talk,” but doesn’t have as thick of a southern accent as when he appeared on “The Voice” in 2014 (and was singing pop-rock songs like “Collide” by Howie Day). And his “aw, shucks” stage persona is the same individual who faced widespread fallout after being caught on video using a racial slur, was arrested for disorderly conduct in May 2020 and was forced to postpone a appearance on “Saturday Night Live” after partying without a mask in violation of NBC’s Covid protocols.
But there is no doubt that Wallen can play.
Her voice soared on “More Than My Hometown” as childhood photos flashed across the screen. He played piano for “Sand in My Boots” and was equally at home with or without a guitar. The new song “You Proof” sounded like it had been a hit for years, and everyone knew all the words.
However, one of the best parts of the show came during the quieter part. Wallen left the stage to perform three songs in front of the packed crowd on the lawn, including his covers of Jason Isbell’s “Cover Me Up” (which sounded much better live than Wallen’s studio recording) and “Flower Shops by Ernest Keith Smith. He concluded the latter by tossing a bouquet of roses into the crowd, like he was Rick Springfield or LL Cool J. (Ladies like cool Morgan too.)
Hardy, one of the two opening acts, joined Wallen onstage for a performance of “He Went to Jared” and concluded the number by throwing beers onstage and then tossing the crushed cans into the crowd.
After a few more songs, Wallen ended his 100-minute set with a three-song encore of fan favorites “Heartless,” “Wasted on You,” and “Whiskey Glasses.” It was a party that ended with a toast to Syracuse.
Opener Lainey Wilson kicked off the concert at 7 p.m. with a 30-minute set that included her hit song “Things a Man Oughta Know,” a cover of Janis Joplin’s “Mercedes Benz” and a crushing rendition of 4 Non Blondes ” What’s new.” She talks really fast between songs, but her high energy and mix of modern and retro country won her some new fans on Friday.
Hardy, meanwhile, was like a follower of Kid Rock, mixing rock, hip-hop and country into a straight dance party. His casual look (sunglasses and athletic shorts) was an odd juxtaposition to his fun and lively rendition of songs like “One Beer”, “Truck”, “Boots” and “4×4”, as well as “Beer Song” featuring Wilson .
Morgan Wallen’s Setlist – Friday, July 8, 2022
at St. Joseph’s Health Amphitheater in Lakeview, Syracuse, NY
You the proof
Silverado for sale
Country A$$ Sh–
Wonderin’ Bout the Wind
Sand in my boots
Cover Me (Jason Isbell cover)
Thought you should know
Florists (Ernest Keith Smith cover)
He went to see Jared with Hardy
don’t think about jesus
More than my hometown
my way of speaking
wasted on you