Review: Luke Combs brings big energy to first NZ show

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File photo: Luke Combs performs on stage during day one of CMA Fest 2023 at Nissan Stadium on June 08, 2023 in Nashville, Tennessee.

File photo: Luke Combs performing at the CMA Fest 2023 in Nashville, Tennessee, on 8 June 2023.
Photo: AFP / .

Country singer Luke Combs made a big entrance for his New Zealand debut concert in Auckland last night.

The rugby- and beer-loving country music star launched onto the stage, kicking a cup (not a red solo one, sorry Toby Keith) of beer across the stage, as he wore a black cap with a silver fern embossed across the front.

It was Bro Country 101.

The 33-year-old’s big energy and rich voice had the sold out crowd at Spark Arena on their feet from the start, in his first stop on a world concert tour.

And what a crowd.

The popularity of the hit show Yellowstone and the platform it has given to country music in recent years may have explained the splattering of checked shirts, unscuffed cowboy boots and hats. All looked freshly purchased.

Whether they were wannabe cowboys who’d never been to a rodeo, they were all certainly seasonsed Combs’ fans, singing with full voice to his 90 minute set list.

The concert opened with ‘Loving On You’ and ‘Hannah Ford Road’, easing the crowd into the show.

To be fair, they’d had a stellar warm up act with cowboy hat wearing Cody Johnson (CoJo to his fans) with his own strong repertoire of country songs (‘Dear Rodeo’, ‘Til You Can’t’, ‘Human’) who ensured the eager crowd were fully charged and ready for Combs.

Several songs in Combs gave a proper hello to the crowd, explaining he’d been in the country for four days and had attended the All Blacks match at the weekend (one of many huge cheers of the night).

Combs might encourage the bro country persona but this was arguably a show for couples.

During ‘Love You Anyway’ a commotion broke out, the kind of noise normally reserved for streakers or security guards escorting the over-served out.

But no, this appeared to be a proposal early in the evening among the stands, as Combs crooned his lyrics “just some things that leave a man with no choice”.

Combs’ wife is back home awaiting the birth of their second child next month, (more cheers!) and he asked the crowd to sing ‘Beautiful Crazy’ loud enough so she could hear. They did.

But he was there to have fun too, drinking out of a cowboy boot as he sang ‘1, 2 Many’.

The North Carolina native arguably started his career late, only learning the guitar in his early 20s and heading to Nashville when he was 24.

But the success built off his strong song writing and singing skills has propelled him to the top of the country music industry.

Tracy Chapman’s hit ‘Fast Car’ has been a sentimental favourite of Combs and his rendition has found new success in the country and Billboard charts.

It was another crowd favourite in an evening of crowd favourites.

Combs said he didn’t know what to expect with his first visit to New Zealand but the crowd knew what to expect and they got it.

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