Country music remains a man’s world. On this week’s Hot Country Songs chart in Billboard, men held 20 of the top 25 charts. Thursday’s show at the Arvest Bank Theatre at the Midland provided evidence that the trend is likely to continue for a while.
The bill comprised three relative newcomers, each ruggedly handsome with a white-picket-fence name — Tyler Rich, Chris Lane and Dustin Lynch — and all with songs about small towns, dirt roads, cold beer, pickup trucks, pretty women and the country lifestyle.
Rich and Lane preceded Lynch, who is on his first headlining tour. Rich is a Californian who sings about his homestate in songs like “California Grown,” a twangy ballad rife with small-town details.
Lane, 31, a native of North Carolina, favors party anthems, songs like “Saturday Night,” a tale of bros and gals grabbing a 12-pack, piling into a truck and heading out to a spot where they’ll “climb through the barbed-wire, light something on fire … gonna be another all-nighter.” Later in the song, he rhymes “skinny dip” with “busted lip.” It was that kind of night.
After that came a medley of disparate songs: the Outfield’s “I Don’ Wanna Lose Your Love,” Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” and Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball.” That aroused one of the loudest responses of his set. He sings about romance, too, as he did in the ballad “Let Me Love You,” an ode dipped in electronica that had a boy-band ballad vibe.
Before Lynch took the stage, the PA warmed up the crowd with a variety of songs from other Billboard charts, including Incubus’ “Stellar” and a remix of R. Kelly’s “Ignition.”
Backed by a five-piece band and accompanied by an impressive light show, Lynch, a Tennessee native, opened with “Take It Up to the Sky,” a Southern rock meets Def Leppard anthem about going for it full-bore, “it” being the girl you’re after. He followed that with “She Cranks My Tractor,” a song with lyrics that live up to the title’s primitive innuendo.
Lynch has a voice that is strong and soulful. At times it resembled Rob Thomas of Matchbox Twenty. He put it to good use in songs like “Halo,” in which he tries to persuade a girl to trust him, take his hand and then “take a chance.”
His set was filled with covers. First came a ’90s country medley that included Diamond Rio’s “Meet in the Middle” and Brooks & Dunn’s “Boot Scootin’ Boogie.” About an hour into his 90-minute set, he covered Garth Brook’s “The Thunder Rolls.”
After that, he summoned a young woman from the audience (who was too young to take the shot he apparently wanted to offer) to spin a karaoke wheel. Then Lynch, Lane and Rich performed whatever song the wheel landed on. They got Tim McGraw’s “Indian Outlaw,” which started a loud sing-along, George Strait’s “Check Yes or No” and Destiny’s Child’s “Say My Name,” which started one of the loudest sing-alongs of the night.
The rest of the set was dedicated to Lynch’s material, some of it generic rock anthems, like “Sing It to Me,” He delivered all of his hit singles: “Cowboys and Angels,” a ballad he dedicated to his grandmother, “Wild in Your Smile,” “Where It’s At (Yep, Yep)” and “Hell of a Night,” which closed the raucous set. In that one, the singer promises the pretty gal that once she climbs into the cab of his truck, “you know it’s on.”
It’s exactly what most of the 1,000-plus in the place came to hear, justifying why so many other songs like it are big country hits.
Take It Up to the Sky; She Cranks My Tractor; Halo; All Night; ’90s medley: John Deere Green, Meet in the Middle, Boot Scootin’ Boogie; After Party; Sing It To Me; Name On It; Middle of Nowhere; Wild In Your Smile; Hurricane; The Thunder Rolls; Indian Outlaw/Check Yes or No/ Say My Name; Mind Reader; Cowboys and Angels; American Poor; Where It’s At (Yep, Yep); Hell of a Night.