As the lights dropped and musicians took their place, the thump of a massive kick drum and three electric guitars hit the groove of “It’s About To Get Dirty” as Georgia’s Brantley Gilbert emerged from the smoke. The only thing louder than the band were the cheers from the BG Nation, 13,000 strong for the first date of the back-to-back platinum songwriter’s summer leg of his Devil Don’t Sleep Tour. Without missing a beat, they swung into “My Kind of Party,” setting the tone for 18 songs that hit hard and brought the crowd to a boil.
“When you’ve got ballads for hits,” Gilbert says of the show, “you know you wanna keep the energy up, the songs pumping. I’m lucky, because – as I told’em onstage – every album is a chapter of my life – and these people have been coming to see us for years. They know these songs, and they come to sing along, to cheer and have fun. When you shift gears (from arenas to amphitheaters), it’s always a little different, but I get kinda excited by that, too.”
Singing all the words to new songs like The Devil Don’t Sleep’s “Rockin’ Chairs,” or taking songs Gilbert has written for others like CMA Song of the Year nominated “Dirt Road Anthem,” these songs were yowled with such passion because they seem as much the fans’ lives as they are Gilbert’s. Pausing before the #1 “You Don’t Know Her Like I Do,” the hardcore outlier talked to the audience about his wife Amber, tearing up as he shared the news of their impending baby and laughing at the deafening response he received from the 12,853 people.
“Man, when I started talking about the baby,” marvels Gilbert, “those cheers were so loud, that just made me feel almost the same way the news we’re having this child did. I hope the BG Nation knows how much all of their love and support mean to me, to my family and the guys out on the road with us. They’re a big part of why we do what we do.”
And beyond the hits – the moody “Country Must Be Country Wide,” the epic “One Hell of An Amen,” the feel good “Bottoms Up” – there are the fiercely independent anthems, from the hell-raising “Kick It In The Sticks” to the almost menacing “Take It Outside” and the pride in love “Outlaw in Me,” which drew as strong a response as the songs people know from the radio. With plenty of pyro, lots of video effects and a band Hell bent on pushing these songs limits, Gilbert’s show was for the staunchest fans, but also for anyone looking to kick out the jams, consider what it means to be alive and seeking to have a summer night to remember.
With Luke Combs celebrating the release of his debut This One’s for You and Tyler Farr just into “I Should Go To Church Sometime” sharing the stage – and throughout the tour, there was plenty of new music, serious testosterone and fresh attitude permeating the night. Look for the three acts to spend the summer playing, pranking and maybe even writing some songs.
“There’s nothing like being on tour with people who you like,” Gilbert admits. “Tyler and Luke both make pretty intense country music. They bring guys who come to play – and they’re not afraid to get out on that stage and grab the fans! To me, it’s a great couple acts to be out with all summer, and yeah, we might just write a few.”
Running through September 23 at Raleigh, NC’s Coastal Credit Union Music Park, this summer’s leg of The Devil Don’t Sleep Tour hits amphitheaters across the South, Midwest, Rust Belt and Northeast. For members of the BG Nation and all the people who like their good-timing with a certain intensity, this is definitely the tour to see.