Heart, beer and pyrotechnics on stage; You don’t want to miss these bands that have the best live shows in country music.
Every band and musical act needs to have some pop to their live shows to earn a reputation, to make sure that when they travel a ticket to see them is a hot one. Some do it better than others, and some make it their calling card.
2014 was dominated by male bro-country artists. That’s not to disparage them; they put on fun shows that keep the fans coming back in droves. Even Carrie Underwood and Miranda Lambert couldn’t match the sheer numbers of fans that turned out to see Brantley Gilbert and Florida Georgia Line.
2015 promises to see a few more female acts sneak their way into the list of country’s top live performances, judging by how Kacey Musgraves blew everyone away in 2014, and the fact that The Band Perry continues their slow, steady assault.
As it goes, these 10 country music artists have it down to a fine science and have a live act you don’t want to miss.
Although some may complain about his stage presence and poor singing voice, there is no arguing about the numbers: Jason Aldean brought in over $52 million in ticket revenue on his Burn it Down tour in 2014. Opening acts included Florida Georgia Line, Tyler Farr, and at some stops, he even had another headlining artist opening for him: Miranda Lambert. In 2015, he will be touring with Kenny Chesney.
Luke Bryan knows what an audience wants and that’s two things: him sitting on the tailgate of a truck surrounded by flames and singing his particular brand of bro-country, and him wearing tight jeans and gyrating. His That’s My Kind of Night tour, which continues into 2015, saw 986,876 attendees out of a total possible 990,690 tickets. That’s 99% for all you keeping score.
There’s no doubt Eric Church has grown into his stadium-filling, gadget-heavy show. With lifts, a drum riser, smoke, and pyrotechnics an Eric Church concert is just as much spectacle as it is music. Add to that Church in his trademark aviators and bad-boy attitude, and you’ve got a concert that doesn’t need seats.
Sometimes the best concerts aren’t packed stadiums, but smaller venues in which the artist can connect with the audience. Sturgill Simpson offers the best of both worlds with his concerts in 2014 and 2015. He opens for the Zac Brown Band, the Drive-by Truckers, and the Avett Brothers while still maintaining a heavy list of solo concert dates at small theaters across the nation. Simpson reminds us what honest concerts are like when they aren’t headlined by someone with pyrotechnics.
There will only ever be one WillieNelson, and seeing one of his shows is an experience like no other. Whether it’s at his very own Fourth of July Picnic festival, or seeing him solo, Willie is a tireless artist and performer that never ceases to re-invent himself. And the fans know: between his shows with Alison Krauss and his own, he pulled in $9.2 million in ticket sales. And that was only the first half of 2014.
Somehow Ashley Monroe still isn’t a household name. Her 2013 album Like a Rose was named best country album of the year by the New York Times, Rolling Stone, and Billboard among others. To see the singer-songwriter perform is to see music the way it is supposed to be: home-grown, polished, and delivered by a classic performer. In 2015, Monroe tours with Pistol Annies band mate Miranda Lambert, but if you can catch Monroe headlining in a small venue, you might never go back to a stadium concert again.
Lady Antebellum has drawing power: good musicianship and a fun stage presence backed by a cast of openers who could all be headliners in their own rights, the Take Me Downtown tour was one of country music’s highest grossing shows of 2014. Kip Moore, Kacey Musgraves, Billy Currington, Joe Nichols, Jana Kramer, Davis Nail and Alex & Sierra all hopped on the Lady A train and rode to stadium-packing success.