WILKES-BARRE TWP. — Country star Jake Owen brought his first headlining tour to the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza on Saturday, making an average night in Wilkes-Barre in the month of May feel like a “Barefoot Blue Jean Night.”
Owen, a 32-year-old singer-songwriter from Vero Beach, Fla., has been working his way up the ranks since the release of his debut album, “Startin’ With Me,” in 2006. He has previously toured with Kenny Chesney, Brad Paisley and Jason Aldean, appearing with the latter last August on Montage Mountain.
But with the “Days of Gold Tour 2014” Saturday, it was all about Owen, and the large crowd loved it from the moment he set off a minor frenzy by beginning his opening number from the satellite stage in the middle of the arena floor. Hundreds of his fans, cellphones at the ready, rushed to the back of the house as Owen belted out the title song of his fourth album (and namesake of the tour), and made his way to the stage set up like a tiki bar.
“It’s Saturday night in Wilkes-Barre, are you ready to give me all you got?” he yelled over the screaming and applause, and kept the party going with “Anywhere With You.” He elicited even more screams by changing the lyrics to “Have you ever been to Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania?”
His latest single, “Beachin’,” was next, then it was on to “Ghost Town” and the retro fun of “1972.” Owen worked the crowd well on his first single “Yee Haw,” and brought the tempo down nicely with “Alone With You” and “Don’t Think I Can’t Love You.”
The crowd heartily sang along and chugged together as Owen passed around a few Budweisers during “Pass a Beer,” calling it his favorite part of the show.
After a few bars of songs he used to play in clubs – “Friends in Low Places,” “Chattahoochee” and “Ice Ice Baby” – Owen kept up the momentum with “Life of the Party” and a full-length version of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “That Smell.”
Owen gave a 9-year-old girl holding up an “I heart Jake Owen” sign a night she will never forget as he brought her up on stage, let her play drums, hold his guitar and play the piano as he crooned “The One That Got Away.” At the end of the song, he put the girl on his shoulders and had a picture taken with her in front of the cheering crowd.
He ended his set with “Tall Glass of Something” and “Eight Second Ride,” then encored with “Barefoot Blue Jean Night,” his first No. 1 hit from 2011, throwing in a few lines of the theme song from “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” for good measure. He then called out all seven members of the two opening acts to help him with a ragged but joyous version of John Mellencamp’s “Small Town.”
Saturday’s show began with a five-song, 20-minute set by The Cadillac Three (formerly known as The Cadillac Black), a trio from Nashville that sounded more Southern rock than country. Led by singer/guitarist Jaren Johnston, who co-wrote five songs on Owen’s latest album (including the title track with drummer Neil Mason as it first appeared on the group’s debut), highlights included “I’m Southern,” “Back It Up” and the band’s first single “The South.”
Parmalee, a quartet consisting of singer/guitarist Matt Thomas, his brother Scott on drums, their cousin Barry Knox on bass and lead guitarist Josh McSwain, followed with a very fine 50-minute set. The group revved up the crowd from opener “I’ll Bring The Music” through closer “Carolina,” the band’s first chart topper.
Other highlights included new single “Close Your Eyes,” “Musta Had a Good Time” and “Back in the Day,” plus the impromptu-sounding “Fireball,” a song about the cinnamon-flavored whisky of the same name set to the tune of Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball.”