TMU was on hand as the icon of Neo-Traditionalist country celebrated the release of his third album, Heartache Medication, at the Hammerstein Ballroom.
With its cavernous mouth and nearly eight-story high ceiling, The Hammerstein Ballroom echoes almost like an arena. The venue has become somewhat of a kingmaker. Many artists have used the Hammerstein as the launching pad to bigger venues. And it is there where last night (Fri, Sept 27th), Jon Pardi accepted his crown as the final anointed country superstar of the decade.
Pardi joins the ranks of Luke Combs, Eric Church, and Kacey Musgraves, whose music took off among the country music masses this decade. In fact, 2019 is his year. Pardi begins his third headlining tour with two sold out shows at the Ryman, and will be visiting rooms similar in size to the Hammerstein Ballroom across the country throughout the fall. And if the pattern follows the typical superstar trajectory, Pardi will be playing arenas within 18 months time.
It has taken Jon Pardi quite a few years to achieve such ubiquity. Though that seems intentional. Throughout his career, Jon Pardi has focused on quality over quantity, releasing just three albums since his debut in 2012. He broke out with California Sunrise in 2016. Double wins in the New Artist categories at both the ACMs and CMAs followed in 2017.
Last night’s show at Hammerstein celebrated his latest effort, Heartache Medication, which dropped the same day as the show and stayed number one across all genres for most of Friday.
While his sophomore album, California Sunrise was lauded by critics, his latest offering proves he — and his neo traditionalist style — are here to stay. At the show last night, his crowd of 3000+ fans affirmed with surprising vigor that Pardi’s style is where they want country music to go.
That is perhaps because everything in life is cyclical. After the Urban Cowboy phase, neo traditionalism came into fashion in the 90’s. The Boot Scootin’ of Brooks and Dunn gave way to the car Cruisin’ of FGL. That, in turn, opened the doors for the success of Luke Bryan and the megastardom of Blake Shelton with bro country. Jason Aldean and Dierks Bentley (who I think both started before FGL were out of diapers) eventually muscled their way into mainstream success. Now, finally we’re back inside the honky tonk. But it’s different than before. Loops and Auto-tune are still used. But they have become spices, and are no longer the main ingredient in a bonafide country hit.
To crystalize this point, at a Verizon BUILD Series talk earlier in the day, Pardi mentioned that his style allowed him to tour with Alan Jackson and Luke Bryan.
That Jackson influence is immediately noticeable to anyone watching Pardi live. Combine that energy with George Strait’s stoic command of his crowd, and you have a pretty good understanding of Pardi’s stage presence. Another Strait connection — “Love Her Like She’s Leaving” off of Heartache Medication was co-written by Strait’s hitmaker Dean Dillon.
Last night’s show was a one-off album party with thousands of fans. One of the surprises for the event was a Mariachi band. They joined Pardi for “Tequila Little Time.” Perhaps intended, perhaps not, one couldn’t help but note the political implications of a country singer performing with a Mexican-style band. If it was a statement intended to go out to the masses watching on Prime and Facebook, it was low-key and almost imperceptible, much like Pardi’s reserved personality. It fit.
The concert offered a string of Pardi’s hits from his freshman and sophomore albums. He was also generous with songs from the new record. He has to be. Pretty soon, songs like “Me and Jack,” and “Old Hat” will be well-worn, becoming part of the “old stuff” fans want to hear. It is all a part of the incredible journey to superstardom. One Pardi — and his fans — are reveling in.