Lee Brice Wasn't Hard to Love Friday

Photo by Maddie Schroeder

Photo by Maddie Schroeder

Ally Lanasa

Country singer Lee Brice took the stage in Templeton-Blackburn Memorial Auditorium Thursday as concertgoers cheered and raised their drinks ready to party. They were not disappointed. 

Josh Phillips opened the concert, wearing a ball cap, dark jeans and a tank that exposed the cross tattoo on his right tricep. He entertained the audience for the first half hour with covers of AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell” and Luke Combs’ “Can I Get an Outlaw,” which Phillips wrote. 

In anticipation of his upcoming record, the South Carolina native also performed some of his original music. “Buy Him a Beer” was inspired by Phillips learning his then-girlfriend was having an affair. Later, that man allegedly cheated on her. Phillips says he wasn’t angry at the man, rather he’d like to buy him a drink. Then in the spotlight that resembled heavenly light peaking through clouds, the solo 28-year-old artist sang his first single on country radio “In A Bar Somewhere.” 

The newcomer expressed the importance of having his audience understand him as more than an entertainer. For his final song of the evening, Phillips warned the audience he would be “getting a little redneck” to share his narrative of the South through his fast-paced song, “Rockin’ Them Boots.”

After a short set change, the stage lights went dark as the sound of boot stomping echoed throughout the auditorium. Red, blue and green lights began to flash dramatically as Lee Brice’s five-member band walked on stage to be joined by the double ACM award winner for his 2012 hit “Parking Lot Party.” Brice took the stage, sporting a green Ohio University hat, jeans and a black button-down shirt that was unbuttoned at the top to reveal his necklace. 

He continued his set with the title-track of his 2012 album, “Hard To Love” and “Welcome to the Weekend.” After the final note, Brice ignited the energy of the crowd, saying “Welcome to the weekend, y’all.” Concertgoers passionately sang along to “Love Like Crazy, ” the title-track of his 2010 album which was certified gold. Upon the lyrics “Where she blessed him with six more mouths to feed,” the father of three joked that was too many children. 

Between every song, Brice exchanged his instruments, switching between acoustic and electric guitars. The 39-year-old singer performed “That Don’t Sound Like You” from 2014 and  “A Woman Like You,” his first No. 1 song which also reached double platinum status. He followed up with “Beer” and a cover of Garth Brooks’ “Ain’t Going Down (‘Til the Sun Comes Up).” After the cheers died down, Brice performed “Boy.” Although he did not write the song, he said it was a reflection of his relationship with his father and the relationship he has with his two sons, Takoda, 10, and Ryker, 4. 

His next song was familiar to country music lovers in attendance. Although recorded by Eli Young Band in 2010, Lee Brice and Liz Rose wrote “Crazy Girl.” The crowd belted out the chorus in unison with Brice. An extensive drum solo followed the performance. The stage lights flashed rapidly in sync with the drummer’s fast rhythm. 

Brice paused his set to thank the U.S. military and first responders across the nation. In their honor, he asked the crowd to shine their phone lights as he sang “I Drive Your Truck.” According to The Tennessean, the song was inspired by a true story about a father whose son died during his service in Afghanistan. 

Brice introduced his bandmates, referring to them as “his family away from home.” The bassist and guitarist shifted from a country-rock rhythm to a more groovy melody for “Rumor” from Brice’s 2017 self-titled album. Brice’s bandmates departed the stage as a piano was drawn out to the center. Video footage of his wedding began to play from the overhead screens as Brice pressed the black and white keys and sang the first verse of “I Don’t Dance.” He said he couldn’t leave Ohio without performing the No. 1 single because wife is originally from Youngstown, Ohio. 

His band gradually united on stage as the melody sped up for the finale of “Drinking Class.” Brice threw guitar picks out to the audience throughout the song and motioned “I love you” as the auditorium erupted in cheers and clapping.