He may sing “Sangria,” but at his stop in Grain Valley on Wednesday night, Blake Shelton was all about the vodka.
Smithworks Vodka, to be exact. To promote his partnership with the vodka company with Midwest ties, Shelton held a VIP event at Whiskey Tango, where he spoke to media and greeted special guests. He then performed a free pop-up concert for 2,500 fans at the venue.
“I’ve played here once 100 years ago, and it’s not so much about this establishment as it is about this city,” Shelton said. “Kansas City has been an area that’s been good to me for a long time. You always remember the places that are good to you over the years, and you think, ‘Where were the good memories at?’ I have a lot of friends here.”
Shelton announced the surprise concert in a series of tweets Wednesday morning. He’s hosted pop-up shows for the past three years as he traveled the country on various tours.
Shortly after the announcement, fans began lining up outside the country-western bar. Michelle Ehrhorn of Kansas City was the first to show up, at 11 a.m. She said she didn’t even ask to leave work, but her boss saw her Facebook post and understood.
Being first in line, she said, “is what I was aiming for.”
While she went straight from work without any provisions, she said she quickly made friends with the women around her, who came prepared with lawn chairs, coolers and plenty of alcohol. Charlotte Kelly, who was there for her first Blake Shelton concert, said the women are all Facebook friends now.
“We’re all buddies for life,” Kelly said.
While more fans waited outside, Shelton and Smithworks hosted a meet-and-greet VIP event. Smithworks Vodka is made in Arkansas, with corn from Kansas, Missouri and Shelton’s home state of Oklahoma, according to the company’s website.
Shelton spoke with fans and posed for pictures for 10 minutes. Kansas City, he said, knows how to have fun.
“Something always happens when we play here,” he said. “There’s just a party-type atmosphere, and people seem to be in a good place all the time in Kansas City. I don’t know why it is; it’s just every time you come here you feel like something is going to happen.”
He said when he arrived around 2 p.m., he saw 70 or 80 people lined up — a far cry from the more than 2,500 that would pack the bar later that night.
“I thought, ‘Man, maybe no one is going to show up,’ but it looks like there’s cars around here, so maybe they’ll be here,” he said. “But you know, 10 people or 10,000, I just want to play some country music. Get up there without a plan and just play a bunch of country music tonight.”
Shelton is dating singer Gwen Stefani, a fellow judge on NBC talent show “The Voice” (she’ll make a stop at the Sprint Center Aug. 12). He said it’s hard when they’re touring at the same time, but they’ve made it work.
“If we didn’t ever have to be apart, that would be great,” he said. “I’m going one direction, and she’s going the other direction sometimes, but every time we can, we meet up and find each other somewhere out there.”
Listen to audio of Shelton’s interview below:
Kate Miller: 816-234-4077, @_Kate_Miller_