Travis Tritt turns Westbury into Country Club

Travis Tritt and his full band performed for nearly two hours at the Long Island venue

Country music Class of ‘89 graduate and iconic singer-songwriter Travis Tritt returned to Long Island’s NYCB Theatre at Westbury with his full band last night (Sun, Sept 15th) for a rousing and emotional 20 song set.

Opening with “Put Some Drive In Your Country,” — his standard full band opener — Tritt proved the lyric, “that’s just what I did,” true all night long. Moving right in to “Move it On Over,” Tritt continued to demonstrate how his brand of southern rock broke barriers in the 90’s.

That is to say, Tritt burst on the scene with a combination of respect for the old tradition of Hank Williams, while thumbing his nose at the establishment that wanted to keep electric guitars and hard rock out of country music.

Throughout the night, Tritt let the music move him, often doing some fancy footwork in time to his drum beats, or holding his guitar like his outlaw heroes. All of it pleased the crowd.

At Westbury, Tritt was at somewhat of a disadvantage. I have written before about my displeasure with the theater’s sound system. Yet again, the sound was mixed as such that the band drowned him out, making him hard to hear in spots (and even making it seem as though he were slurring words.) But that iconic gruff-yet-sorrowful voice cut through, fighting the sound system issues valiantly.

Despite those issues, Tritt seemed to be having the time of his life. Often throwing his body back and basking in the adulation, it appeared as though he was hesitant to simply plow through his set. He wanted to savor the moments as they hit him. In fact, he may have extended his set just for us last night.

After a moving “Anymore,” and stirring acoustic rendition of “Long Haired Country Boy,” Tritt broke out a medley of two love songs, one of which, “Help Me Hold On,” became his first No. 1 single almost 30 years ago. Before starting the acoustic medley, he said, “I hardly ever do this.” This was evidenced by the fact that his band had already started to return to the stage, shrugged, then left again.

During the acoustic set, Tritt was harmonizing guitar parts with his off-stage guitar technician. It lent a cool depth to the acoustic set. Due to the nature of of Westbury’s intimate in-the-round set-up, “Guitar World” was positioned just off stage. Normally, audiences would not be aware of the covert accompaniment in regular theater set-ups, but it was neat to witness. I only wish Tritt would have taken advantage of the unique opportunity to point out his technician.

Tritt is perhaps one of the best and most versatile guitar players in country music. He can easily switch between rhythm and melody playing, and can absolutely shred on an electric guitar. Perhaps that is the key to why his music works: the strings are in many ways the backbone of his songs, and Travis can play each part with ease and mastery.

Tritt closed out the night by donning his iconic hat and covering his hero and mentor Waylon Jennings with “Mama’s Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys,” before launching into “T-R-O-U-B-L-E.” He began by talking about Jennings’ friendship and influence on his career.

At the core of Jennings and Tritt’s relationship was how the industry cast them as “outlaws” for leaning a little harder into the rock elements of their music, not to mention their attitudes. “Is it okay if I pay a little tribute to my friend?” he asked the audience. Of course, we all know, his whole career is one big tribute to Jennings — and country is better for it.

Matt Bailey
Matt Bailey

Matt Bailey is podcast producer and writer located in the Northeast. Since 2013, Bailey has produced more than 160 episodes of his own online radio show, Talk For Two. In 2016 alone, he interviewed Kevin Bacon, Crystal Gayle, Bob Barker, and Gilbert Gottfried, among several other stars. As a Correspondent for The Music Universe, his focus is Broadway, country music and concert reviews.