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Review: Bryan plays to his strengths — beers and bros

| Sunday, June 22, 2014, 8:27 a.m.

Packed tailgates, cowboy boots, camo hats and bare chests. No, Kenny Chesney couldn't make it to Pittsburgh this summer, but another artist served the city the dose of country music its been craving since his performance last year.

Luke Bryan helped fans get a little drunk on beer and high on summer time at Heinz Field Saturday night, Bryan's first stadium concert on his ‘That's My Kind of Night' tour.

The show opened to Bryan atop a black 4x4 truck encircled by flames belting the tune of the tour-headlining anthem, “That's My Kind of Night.”

The pyrotechnics didn't end there, as fireworks accompanied nostalgic narrative in “Rain Is a Good Thing,” and love ballad “Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye.”

Bryan, dressed in a bright blue shirt, tight black jeans and signature ball cap, did not remain still no matter the tempo of the song. The Georgia native jumped, danced, shook and gyrated at every chance he got, flashing that 100-watt smile and sauntering with an approachable charm that captivated the ladies and gentlemen just the same.

Although women made up the majority of screaming fans, there was no lack of appreciation for the hunky Southerner from the men. During Billboard chart topper “Country Man,” the guy next to me screamed, “Hey, I'm a country man!” every time the refrain rolled around, while other, less-vocal men responded with enthusiastic pointing or cup raising approval. In short, they were truly happy to be there.

And why wouldn't they be? Sure, Bryan bared his more sensitive side during new single “Roller Coaster” and “Someone Else Calling You Baby,” but a major portion of the evening focused on something most men can relate to: beer and bros.

Bryan tossed cans of beer to fans during “Suntan City” and “If You Ain't Here to Party,” which he performed alongside show opener Lee Brice. The beverage was mentioned light-heartedly several other times throughout the performance, but took on a new meaning during “Drink a Beer,” an homage to lost loved ones.

He stuck true to his “bro country” roots when he welcomed other show opener Dierks Bentley back to the stage in the middle of his set with a few cups of “Pittsburgh's finest” moonshine. The two drank and played a mini set together comprised of classics like Garth Brooks' “Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old)” and Bryan Adams' “Summer of '69.”

Bentley, who made a special appearance at Heinz Field some fans weren't expecting, pumped up the crowd with No. 1 singles “What Was I Thinkin' ” and “Am I The Only One,” where he brought a fan up to the stage to shotgun a beer with him. But like Bryan, Bentley is in touch with his emotions as well, soothing with love song “Come A Little Closer” and “I Hold On,” a tribute to his father.

Up-and-coming crooner Lee Brice, known for his teddy bear stature and deep bass, preceded Bentley. He contributed the appropriately titled “Beer” and “Parking Lot Party” to the evening's party theme, but knew when to slow things down with fan favorites like “Hard to Love,” “I Don't Dance” and “Love Like Crazy.”

Breakout artist Cole Swindell kicked off the show with upbeat tracks, “Hey Y'all,” “Let Me See Ya Girl” and hit single “Chillin' It.” His genuine excitement and breezy ballads set the stage for carefree, country fun.

Bryan closed his set with “Play It Again” and the single that skyrocketed him to fame, “Country Girl (Shake It For Me).” The women in the crowd did just that.

Fans came to Heinz Field searching for an evening of good vibes shared with close friends and a couple of brews. Bryan delivered, with just that kind of night.

Emma Deihle is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at edeihle@tribweb.com.

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