After a year of delays, Combs is back in the saddle

What You See Is What You Get with Luke Combs as he played to a pack house in Bakersfield tonight (Sat, Oct 2nd). More than 10 thousand attendees showed up to sing along to arguably the most popular country artist of the decade. Combs, who got his start on Vine — the now defunct social media platform similar to TikTok — in 2014 packed 90s style country into a 100 minute unforgettable show with a 360 degree view and spinning platform.

The night kicked off with Ray Fulcher who took the stage at 7 pm. He and his three-piece band (yes, that is possible these days) played to an arriving crowd and got the night rolling with a handful of selections, including a cover of Sawyer Brown’s “Some Girls Do.”

Ashley McBryde swept through a 45 minute set that included 10 of her own songs, including “Never Will,” “Martha Divine” and others. Her voice is like a “Sparrow” that soars through the arena. Her voice is nothing short of mesmerizing and her stage presence is honed in as well.

However, her performance was in jeopardy after falling off a horse that left her with a concussion a little over a week ago. Doctors said she needed to recover for 14 days, but took the stage sooner than expected after she began walking after four and a half days.

“I believe if I got up here, country music would do the rest,” she advised the cheering crowd. “Come hell or high whiskey, here I am.”

She paired “Livin’ Next to Leroy” with a portion of the Allman Brother’s “Midnight Rider” for one helluva party.

McBryde closed her set with “One Night Standards,” a song that she shared the RIAA certified Gold and Platinum while on the pandemic-induced touring break. A single or album is certified Gold for sales of 500,000 or more and Platinum for one million or more shipments or streams equivalent. I was a bit surprised to see “Girl Goin’ Nowhere” wasn’t performed, but she did do her debut single, “Dive Bar in Dahlonega,” and that was fantastic.

The big man himself took the stage at 9 o’clock for the ultimate 90s country throwback party that consisted of familiar hits, new songs and covers. The already energetic crowd became deafening as Combs and his band hit the floor as they paraded to the six foot tall stage in the center of the arena. They kicked off the show with “When It Rains It Pours” and kept the night moving with hits like, “1, 2 Many,” “Cold As You,” “Beer Can” and many others.

“It has been a long time,” he addressed the roaring crowd early in the set. “These tickets went on sale two years ago. Thank you so much for sticking with us.”

It was damn near two years ago when I purchased two tickets in February 2020. The show was initially set for October 24, 2020, but was delayed a year. I knew the date would sell out originally, and that’s worth picking up tickets as Combs had been on a hot streak of selling out most tour stops.

Combs didn’t disappoint either with his signature trucker hat and red Solo cup in hand. The man is on fire. He just finished recording his forthcoming third studio album with Sony Music Nashville after writing nearly 100 songs in the past 15 months. He, like the rest of us, took playing music for granted is thankful to be performing again.

“Five Leaf Clover” is a song that’s been on his setlist recently as a solo performance with an electric guitar (at least for tonight, but other shows he’s performed it acoustically). The poignant ballad is a thank you to his fans for his life, and provides inspiration for anyone who aspires to do something and to never give up.

“South On Ya” is a song he says is typically reserved for the southern audience, but “there’s a lot of mismatched folks in Bakersfield, California” he proclaimed before ripping into the hard hitting song. It is also the SEC Network College Football anthem.

While Matt was wrapping a 90s country party with Travis Tritt and Brooks & Dunn in Virginia, Combs was honoring the trio by performing a hit from each of them. Combs paired Tritt’s “It’s A Great Day To Be Alive” with Tim McGraw’s “I Like It, I Love It” to showcase his awesome band. A bit later, he revved the crowd with Brooks & Dunn’s “Brand New Man,” which he recorded with the duo for their 2019 all-star collaboration Reboot album.

The ballads like “Even Though I’m Leavin’,” “Better Together” and “Hurricane” even had the crowd on their feet. Hardly anyone sat down the entire night and sang all show long.

The final song of the night was by far the loudest, and rightfully so. “Beer Never Broke My Heart” was the perfect sendoff to a night chock full of rowdy anthems and country love songs. It’s a safe bet to say Combs is responsible for reviving the 90s country sound and getting it heard on country radio again.

Combs and McBryde are two powerhouse vocalists and entertainers every country fan needs to see. Both write impressive songs and can sing their asses off! They both know how to keep a crowd entertained and are grateful for being able to make a living doing what they love. They are both very deserving of the accolades they have and continue to receive. In fact, I’ll be surprised if Combs doesn’t get crowned Entertainer of the Year at this year’s CMA Awards.