Ah, country music. It’s a genre that provokes a wide range of attitudes and incites often stringently vocal opinions that both bash and bolster this contentious class of music. In truth, to claim country fandom is a risky decision, for in doing so, fans expose themselves to the almost certain possibility of instant judgment and consequential labeling along the lines of “white trash hicks” and “backasswards hillbillies.” Yet the hayseeds unite! Tattered blue jeans, leather cowboy boots and tall glasses of Bud Light in tow, these seasoned veterans all fought the opposition and flocked to the Orpheum Theater on Friday night to pay homage to the hunky demigod that is country music singer Billy Currington.
The crowd was rather disparate, though it was in large part composed of a mix of 20-something girls bearing flannel midriffs and flowing summer dresses, flocked by an aggregation of brawny, increasingly inebriated men. While these young’uns danced and drank the night away in the standing room portion of the theatre, a random smorgasbord of folks settled themselves into the general admission seats and remained there throughout the show, preferring to watch from afar the spectacle of flirtatious dancing and drunken singing that ensued. These more reserved onlookers consisted primarily of blithe middle-aged gals, but there were a few more fossilized specimens dispersed among the audience. One such character was a lady with abnormally bouffant hair who settled herself directly in front of an unfortunately short man, causing him to spend the duration of the concert craning his neck to such a malformed degree that it’s a wonder he made it out of the event without suffering multiple muscle spasms. Regardless of the inherent discomfort, the man left the concert grinning, so he must have found comfort in the general lightheartedness and jollity of the night’s two performances.
This cheerful tone was set in the opening act for Billy Currington: Rising country music star Michael Ray took the crowd on a brief tour of some of country’s top hits. Ray recently ascended to stardom when he made it as a semi-finalist on The CW’s reality singing competition “The Next.” With tattoos trailing from the wrist up over his wonderfully toned biceps, the singer’s outward allure alone made him a hit with the Madison crowd and got the girls swooning. Interspersed throughout his performance and following each song, Ray engaged the audience in a notorious teasing game with his hyped anticipation of Currington’s arrival on stage. The repeated phrase of the night, “Wisconsin, y’all ready for Billy?!” was interminably answered with vigorous and increasingly rambunctious assent. Finally, a little over an hour after start time, Currington made it onto the stage and was ceremoniously welcomed by thralls of screaming girls. He even received a standing ovation from the aforementioned oldies seated in back. The main attraction had arrived.
Currington enlivened the crowd by starting the night off with the upbeat tune “I Got a Feelin” from his first album, which was followed up with a mix of his older singles and some tracks off of his newly released album, We Are Tonight. Staying true to his country roots, the artist made sure to jam to “That’s How Country Boys Roll,” which elicited much enthusiasm from the avid crowd of country boys and country boy wannabes. These common reactions of assent were reinvigorated twofold with the song “Pretty Good at Drinking Beer,” during which Currington and the crowd held their glasses high and smiled brimming grins of ease. The dynamics livened up with his song “Like My Dog” as Currington brought his chocolate Labrador, Paco, out onto the stage, who has been going on tour with the artist since the pup was just six weeks old. The lab adorably followed Currington around the stage as the artist sang him his endearing tribute.
The artist also charmingly performed his recent number one single “Hey Girl,” which inevitably led to a healthy dose of dreamy looks from the crowd. With eight number-one singles and multiple Grammy nominations, Currington was far from short on hit tracks to play. After performing his new song “We are Tonight,” the artist left the stage, only to be decorously called back by a crowd eager for more. Upon returning to the stage, Currington gave the appreciative audience four more songs of genres entirely different than country, playing covers to Ja’net Dubois’ “Moving on Up,” Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” and Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines.” He closed out with a final country tune when he performed one of his most popular tracks, “Good Directions.” The ending variance in genre combined with Currington’s entrancing looks and seasoned voice more than justified the artist’s wide acclaim and made for an unforgettable performance.