September 17, 2014

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Thomas Rhett rocks Lorain County Fair crowd

Thomas Rhett performs at the grandstand on Monday. STEVE MANHEIM/CHRONICLE

Thomas Rhett performs at the grandstand on Monday. STEVE MANHEIM/CHRONICLE

 

Country singer Thomas Rhett hosted a party Monday evening for Lorain County fairgoers in a packed grandstand in Wellington.

After all, this Georgia native had plenty to celebrate considering his 2013 debut effort, “It Goes Like This,” scored four top 30 hits — “Beer with Jesus,” “Something to Do with My Hands,” “It Goes Like This” and “Get Me Some of That.” The latter two tracks were No. 1 on country radio.

For nearly 90 minutes, Rhett put on a rocking fun-filled, energy-packed show that confirmed his status as one of Nashville’s rising stars. More importantly, the audience didn’t leave disappointed.

After asking the crowd whether any of them had a few drinks in the parking lot before coming into the concert, Rhett launched into a raunchy cover of Garth Brooks’ “Friends in Low Places.” If he was trying to send a message about the dangers of drinking it was lost on the audience that fully embraced the ’90s hit song.

During the middle of the tune, Rhett climbed down from the stage and engaged a section of the crowd that wasn’t standing.
That’s when he grabbed an unsuspecting guy named Jacob in the audience to help him sing. However, the man took his time walking to the stage.

Rhett jokingly said, “You’re coming so slow dude, we’ve got a show to do.”

On the way to the stage, Rhett asked Jacob, “Can you sing?”

After a brief pause, Jacob said, “No.” That’s when Rhett replied, “We’re going to make you sing.”

After taking a selfie and dancing for the audience during a snippet of Luke Bryan’s “Country Girl (Shake It For Me),” Jacob admitted he wasn’t a Garth Brooks fan. Rhett was perplexed. He literally sat down the young man and told him the story about a “bad-ass named Garth Brooks.”

Finally, Rhett finished “Friends in Low Places,” with Jacob just taking in the moment, before ending the song by singing “in low places.”

Before launching into his funky “Front Porch Junkies,” Rhett asked the rednecks in the audience to show themselves. It appeared more than half of the folks in the grandstand proudly raised their arms.

If there was a theme to Rhett’s show, it had to do with having a good time. Take for instance his mid-tempo rocker “Sorry for Partying.” The acoustic guitar-playing singer had the audience singing along and dancing in their seats.

Then there was anthem “Parking Lot Party,” which the general admission pit — located in the grandstand infield (or “parking lot,” as Rhett called it) — fully embraced.

One of the most appealing aspects of Rhett’s performance is his unabashed passion to engage the audience without fear of a misstep. During his set, a few snippets of Steve Miller’s “The Joker,” Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin’” and Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” weren’t fully embraced by the crowd, but Rhett didn’t care. He was having a good time and that was infectious.

Nevertheless, he appealed to the diehard fairgoers who make it an annual tradition to come to Wellington.

“We’ve been coming to the fair for the last 40 years,” said Amherst resident Sharon Updegrove, who was attending the show with her husband, Richard. “We like Thomas Rhett and all of country music. I think he appeals to all ages. He’s entertaining.”

Invariably, Rhett made a somewhat cool summer evening “Hot Blooded” with a raucous show. Now the question is whether tonight’s Lorain County Fair performer classic rock band Foreigner can deliver.

Contact John Benson at 329-7155 or ndiffrence@att.net.

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