WILKES-BARRE TWP. — A sold-out crowd of nearly 10,000 packed the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza to spend Valentine’s Day with country star Luke Bryan.
Friday’s show, part of the “That’s My Kind of Night” Tour and also featuring Lee Brice and Cole Swindell, was one of the fastest sellouts in the Wilkes-Barre Township venue’s 15-year history, with all seats claimed within minutes of going on sale in October.
And Bryan, who came into Friday’s show at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart with “Drink a Beer,” did not disappoint.
Bryan made a spectacular entrance – rising through a ring of fire from below the extended stage in the middle of the arena, standing on the roof of a black pickup truck. His first song, the recent No. 1 “That’s My Kind of Night,” set the tone for the evening perfectly, as the massive crowd rose in unison to cheer wildly and let loose with their hillbilly hero.
Although Bryan’s most recent album, the No. 1 smash “Crash My Party,” has only been around since August, he played only the singles from it Friday, filling the rest of his 90-minute set with his greatest hits.
Early highpoints included “Rain Is a Good Thing,” “Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye,” “All My Friends Say,” “Country Man” and “Someone Else Calling You Baby.” He then greeted the crowd, thanking them for coming out despite the snow, and began his first No. 1 “Do I” at a piano that appeared where the truck had been earlier.
Bryan tossed out cans of beer to his adoring fans and brought out Brice and Swindell for his “Spring Break 3 … It’s a Shore Thing” anthem “If You Ain’t Here To Party.”
Moments later all pretense of country music fell by the wayside as Bryan began rapping and the trio launched into Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ “Can’t Hold Us.”
Bryan began his next hit, “Crash My Party,” a cappella, and then sat on a makeshift pier with an acoustic guitar for the evening’s emotional highlight, “Drink a Beer.” At the song’s finale, he hoisted a can in the air and toasted the crowd, thanking them for making the song a chart topper.
He finished up his main set with “Drunk On You” and “I Don’t Want This Night To End,” and brought the show to a close with a two-song encore of “This Is How We Roll” and the ever-rowdy “Country Girl (Shake It For Me)” (interrupted slightly when one “country girl” decided to jump on stage to give Bryan a closer look at her shaking).
The show began at 7:30 with a seven-song, 25-minute set by Swindell, who once worked the merchandise table for Bryan before co-writing nine songs for him.
Swindell’s self-titled debut album comes out on Tuesday, and judging by the reception on Friday, he has a winner on his hands. Highlights included opener “Hey Y’all,” “Brought To You By Beer,” “Ain’t Worth the Whiskey” and his first hit, “Chillin’ It.”
Brice, who has been opening shows for Bryan since 2007, followed with an 11-song, 50-minute set composed of his hits “Hard To Love,” “Love Like Crazy,” “Drinking Class” and his first No. 1 “A Woman Like You.”
Other highlights included a solo acoustic version of his brand-new single “I Don’t Dance” (which for some strange reason was followed by a drum solo), “I Drive Your Truck” and his set closer, “Parking Lot Party.”
Bryan’s tickets have been selling like hotcakes for more than a year; his previous tour, “Dirt Road Diaries,” sold out all shows in advance between January and October 2013. The current tour, which kicked off Jan. 16, also has been selling out quickly all over the country, including two shows at Madison Square Garden.