Saturday, October 5, 2013

Scotty McCreery mixes originals, classics during Salem show

Saturday, October 5, 2013

A line from a Scotty McCreery song contained a clue about what might have kept some folks away from his Friday night show at Salem Civic Center.  The song was “Water Tower Town.” The line was “Friday night, football is king.”  To be sure, there were people in the 2,800-capacity room — 1,346 of them. And that crowd contained a very high ratio of excited teenage girls. But again, it was Friday night, and a few thousand other kids were doing their screaming and jumping at gridiron contests across the Roanoke Valley.

This crowd didn’t regret the hour and 25 minutes they spent with the 19-year-old “American Idol” season 10 winner and rising country star. Sing-alongs were the rule through original songs from McCreery’s million-selling debut and upcoming sophomore disc.

That’s not enough original music to fill a headlining set. To his credit, the kid raised on classic country gave his young fans — and their parents and grandparents — a tour through country music’s past, showing that his resonant baritone is a versatile and in-control instrument. His own music, with an old-fashioned, wholesome lyrical sense, showed that he might have a chance at the kind of career his heroes have had.
McCreery has had three hits so far — “I Love You This Big,” “The Trouble With Girls” and “See You Tonight,” the latter being his upcoming album’s title cut. But the crowd responded to plenty more from debut album “Clear As Day.”

“Write My Number on Your Hand,” a ukulele-driven summer song, drew the teens to the edge of the stage, where McCreery autographed items for them. As the band transitioned into the clearly darker “Papa Loved Mama,” a Garth Brooks cover, security cleared out the kids.  Next up was “Suntan,” a song from the forthcoming CD, and McCreery kicked out some giant beach balls, which soon were bouncing around the arena. As McCreery began another cover, “Man of Constant Sorrow,” security quickly removed the beach balls.

The mix of covers and originals was more entertaining than watching security work the crowd. A medley near the end of the set featured Hank Williams’ “Hey Good Lookin,’ ” Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues” and Elvis Presley’s “That’s All Right Mama.”  He also covered Brooks’ “The Dance,” Travis Tritt’s “T-R-O-U-B-L-E” and Brad Paisley’s “Celebrity,” the latter introduced with a goofy, big-screen cameo from Paisley. McCreery used to sing that song with Paisley when he was opening shows for him.

The youngster’s voice was spot-on with such numbers, even if he showed that they were all better than his own music. Still, he’s a kid, and the potential is obvious. 

Opening act Angie Johnson, an Air Force National Guard member whose cover of Adele’s “Rolling In The Deep” got her a short-lived spot on season two of TV’s “The Voice,” showed a near-constant smile as electric as her vocal range.   Her radio single, “Swagger,” got the crowd going

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