Chris Young not only possesses one of the best male voices in country music right now, but the man is a craftsman when it comes to building his live show. During his New York City concert last night (Feb. 25) at the Playstation Theatre, the troubadour constructed a 90-minute set that was engaged, boisterous and downright emotional; it was a roller coaster which rarely gave the concertgoer a chance to come up for air. Young's delicate balance of the past and the present, the tender and the anthemic, the full-band and the acoustic was rather satisfying.
Special guest Cassadee Pope stormed the stage punctually at eight o'clock, and the crowd dulled to a murmur as they were captivated by the former Hey Monday rockstar. "I love you, New York, because of your pizza. I love you because of 30 Rock. I love you because of 'Sex and the City.' I love you because of Billy Joel," she quipped before ripping into Joel's classic "Movin' Out" with such precision and vocal finesse jaws dropped everywhere in sight. To be frank, her set was far too short—and surprisingly, her most recent single "I Am Invincible" was nowhere to be found—but the former "Voice" champion commanded the stage and pumped the audience alive. Flying through a bevy of her songs, including "I Wish I Could Break Your Heart," the gloriously poppy "Alien" ("I'm a dark horse running where you can't run wild" reads the first line) and a nostalgic stunner called "Summer," Pope never faltered and her voice never missed a note.
Her shining moment, though, came when she closed her set with her Top 10-peaking, platinum-selling debut single "Wasting All These Tears." It is evident she has lived the song and been able to live in the song, and her acrobatic skills came into good use when the song reached dizzying new heights at the end, as she flavored the song with a stampede of powerful, sucker-punch belts. Of course, she injected her bubbly personality and several personal anecdotes throughout the show, including a recollection of her time as a wide-eyed 18-year-old in New York City. "I remember taking the train from Brooklyn to Union Square every day to cut my songs. Thank you for staying with me," she said.
Young's performance was even more impressive. The stage exploded with neons, deep blues and reds as appropriate for the song, and the crowd seemed to triple once his set began. Each song was a calculated move (peppered with his biggest singles and new tracks) on his part, and he often took the crowd on a detour back in time for songs like Conway Twitty's "I'd Love to Lay You Down" and Keith Whitley's "When You Say Nothing at All."
Kicking things off with the unruly "Underdogs," the energy was high and his voice was higher. "This is the third time I've been here, and this is the fastest we've ever sold out," he smiled before hitting on all cylinders for "Voices" and then "Lonely Eyes." The crowd basked in his velvety voice and lapped up his every move. There was an undeniable throb which surged over the crowd, as they raised their hands and jammed out to songs like "Aw Naw," ZZ Top's "Sharp Dressed Man" and his biggest single to-date, the three-week No. 1 "I'm Comin' Over."
The crooner's talent is severely undercooked with the rowdy numbers, but when he pulls back and whips out songs like "I Know a Guy" (his most visceral moment of the entire evening), "Drinkin' Me Lonely" ("This is what got me my record deal," he interjected) and "Text Me Texas" (which came as a centerpiece during his mini acoustic lineup), he holds the listener in the palm of his hand.
His set also included "Who I Am with You," "Tomorrow," "You," "Neon," a snippet of "Lost" (thanks to a fan's intense demand throughout the whole show), "Save Water Drink Beer" (the closer) and "Think of You," a duet with Pope. "Cassadee Pope is a badass," Young declared afterward they performed the shong. "I've never had [a song hit] Top 20 in four weeks ever. When I called Cassadee, she said, 'Neither have I. Permission to freak out?' I said, 'You can freak the hell out now.'"
Start to finish, Young's show was delightful and fun and a proper send up of country past and country present. It is clear he has never forgotten his roots, and his live show proves he is the prime torchbearer of country's future.