“Thanks for making a Wednesday night feel like a Saturday in the summer.”
That line from Thomas Rhett perfectly described the energy at a packed Xcel Energy Center on his Wednesday night stop in St. Paul as part of The Home Team Tour. Thomas Rhett was supported in St. Paul by two up-and-comers in the world of country music Old Dominion and Walker Hayes.
Though there was a wintery chill in the air in St. Paul, Thomas Rhett’s infectiously feel-good, set at the Xcel Energy Center, reminded us of warmer days, colder beers, and the carefree magic of summer. Rhett’s back-to-basics country meets rock n’ roll sound was on full display on Wednesday night. Country, country-pop, country-rock, whatever you want to call it, Thomas Rhett knows how to write songs that are catchy as hell and can put on quite the live the show.
However, Rhett reminded us not only of those warmer days but of how to just have a good time.
On Wednesday night The Xcel Energy Center was packed with cowboy-boot-wearing, plaid laden, sparkling-jean-pocket-covered women out for ladies night, real cowboys from the many small towns sprinkled around the Twin Cities and families alike. Though the crowd felt like an American Eagle ad come to life, even more striking than the fashion was the number of kids and families at Thomas Rhett. And it was evident why after watching Rhett’s roughly hour-and-half-set why his music has had such widespread appeal. It’s feel-good, it’s relatable, it’s clean. I don’t think I heard a single profanity during his entire set. Sure, Rhett like any country star (or let’s face it, anyone in pop music today) sings about beer and chasing girls, but Rhett also sings about his wife he’s madly in love with and their two beautiful daughters which he describes as “his everything.” Rhett’s set was not political, it was not overtly religious, it was nothing other than good, heartfelt, fun. And honestly – we could all use a little more of that. Grammy-nominated Thomas Rhett is no stranger to stadiums like the Xcel, he’s no stranger to massive shows with people singing along every word to every song but Rhett’s self-described flattery of St. Paul made the Xcel feel like it was the only show that mattered to Rhett.
“I was back stage during Walker Hayes with Old Dominion, and I’ve never heard a crowd scream like that in my entire career,” Rhett joked. Part of this mutual love between Rhett and the crowd at St. Paul could be due in part to that this date at the Xcel was actually rescheduled from earlier this fall. The anticipation was palpable to say the least (at least it seemed from the many blonde girls screaming loudly into Snapchat).
Opening up the evening prior to Old Dominion was Walker Hayes. Similar to Old Dominion, Walker moved to Nashville and began his career as a songwriter. After navigating the world of Nashville and songwriting for other artists, he released his breakout single for Monument Records You Broke Up with Me, which has been received to wide acclaim.
“Anyone here listen to country radio? Keep listening to your country radio stations because they’ve been giving me a lot of love and I’m grateful for that,” Hayes said towards the end of his short but sweet set. Hayes is touring in support of his forthcoming “Boom!” due out next month.
Ahead of Thomas Rhett was Nashville-based Old Dominion. This five-piece is a group of guys who they self-describe, “got lucky. We moved to Nashville to be songwriters for other people, and we got lucky,” frontman Matthew Ramsey said. This bands’ roots as songwriters is evident in their music. Each song from Old Dominion has that radio ready sound, which they’ve hit truly a stride with in the past few years.
“People ask us a lot now if we can believe what our lives have become. And it usually happens around this time every night when we look around and see you having fun and singing along and we realize it’s to our music,” Ramsey went on during Nowhere Fast. To say Old Dominion looked like they were having a good time on stage would be an understatement. Ramsey took the victory lap around the stadium dancing and singing along with fans. “Man, I need a drink after that,” he joked as he made his way back up to stage. Old Dominion’s set featured those radio hits such as Written in the Sand, No Such thing as a Broken Heart, Break Up with Him and Be with Me.
Rhett opened his set party-ready anthems like Get Me Some of That which sings about “shakin’ that money maker, like a heart breaker, like your college major was twistin’ and tearin’ up Friday nights” and a few songs that like EDM meets country Crash and Burn and Southside. After cranking things up for the start of his set he moved into heartfelt songs such a Grave with the
line “But I’ll take your love with me when I go, I’m gonna take it to the grave with me,” which is enough to get any eye a little watery.
Rhett’s clever songwriting and warm family-man lyricism shined on Life Changes which so vividly paints the picture of the changes season in life From “waking up in my college dorm…majoring in undecided,” to “I bought a ring and she said I do,” to “I remember the day I told my Daddy and Mama you’re gonna have a grandkid,” Rhett pays tribute to his family but also so earnestly tells the story of life we all relate to. But that’s what country music has always done so well, paint pictures and capture a feeling or a moment, that just about anyone can relate to. Perhaps that is what all music is doing but there is something about Rhett that is so astutely able to do that.
Not only did Rhett win over the home team at the Xcel Energy Center, but so did his band. Rhett was backed by a full band which were a show in and of themselves. Dawned in old school letterman jackets, they brought the All-American, Home Team vibe to life. “I only came to see the saxophonist,” one sign read in the crowd. “I’m keeping this one,” Rhett joked as he introduced his band. The showmanship and unabashed talent on the band was not lost on this crowd. Rhett worked the crowd from the front stage, to the catwalk jutting out through the crowd, to the pop up stage in the back. Rhett and the band moved to the back of the house at the Xcel for a few songs towards the end of the set. While in the back Rhett took a roll call of the crowd, “how many of you were born in the 2000s? How about the 1990s? I was born in 1990,” he went on all the way down the the 1940s. “You were not born in the 1940s,” Rhett said to a woman in the crowd, “do you mind if we dance on this next song?” Rhett said ahead of the doo-wop inspired Sweetheart.
Rhett went on to play Round Here. which he wrote for and was made popular by Florida Georgia Line. Rhett wrapped up the evening with hits like It Goes Like This, Die A Happy Man and of course the anthemic T-Shirt.