It was evident from the moment he took the stage Monday (Feb. 5) that there was nowhere else Chris Janson would rather be than performing at the Ryman Auditorium. Janson’s first headlining show at the Mother Church of Country Music was an electrifying one, and he kept that energy going every minute of the show.
From the second he opened with the rowdy “Redneck Life,” Janson had the sold-out crowd of enthralled fans in awe. Janson’s stage presence has a way of filling up an entire venue, radiating passion and energy with his musicianship and genuine enthusiasm for his songs, all while putting his engagement with the audience center stage. He fired up the crowd with “Who’s Your Farmer,” “Fix a Drink” and his own rendition of LoCash’s “I Love This Life” and Tim McGraw’s “Truck Yeah,” both of which he co-penned, and mystified them with the honest and humbling “White Trash,” which shows off Janson’s outlaw side as he pays homage to his working class roots, receiving one of the best reactions of the night.
The loving “Holdin’ Her” was preceded by an impassioned speech that not only had Janson professing his love for his wife, but also instilling a sense of inspiration in the crowd by encouraging them to always believe in oneself, exude positivity and promising that ambitious dreams lead to rewarding accomplishments, following the encouraging words with an equally compelling performance of the Top 20 hit. Just as easily as he can invigorate them with bold, fervent numbers, Janson seamlessly brings fans to a hush when he wants an honest moment, like when he sat at the piano for the stirring “Drunk Girl” that found audience members twinkling the Ryman with their phone lights, unprompted.
No moment was more special than when Keith Urban came out to explosive applause not only to sing a spirited duet of John Michael Montgomery’s “Sold,” but surprise Janson with an invitation to join the Grand Ole Opry. Deafening applause filled the sacred hall as Janson burst into tears, embracing his wife and Urban with gratitude. His pure appreciation was evidenced by the tears streaming down his face while professing that the Opry is where his heart is. “I would die before I had to quit singing country music, I don’t know nothing else,” Janson said emotionally as a longtime dream came true. Awestruck, he returned his overwhelming thanks in the only way he knows how, finishing out the show with his first No. 1 hit “Buy Me a Boat” and a feverish cover of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire.”
Janson expressed over and over how thankful he was for each person who filled a seat that night, with his beaming smile and expert showmanship proving that point even further. The crowd did exactly what Janson asked of them, singing along without hesitation, cheering him on while opening a can of his favorite beverage, Mountain Dew, to abiding Janson’s request to flap their arms like birds, just as he does every time he feels happy to be alive. Janson heartwarmingly admitted that performing a sold out show at the Ryman made him feel like he made it, and for the newly invited member of the Grand Ole Opry who captivated the crowd with his genuine passion for music and those who support it, he certainly has.