Just six short years after first picking up a guitar, Luke Combs was arguably one of 2019’s brightest country stars — and he closed out the year in epic fashion Friday night (December 13) in Nashville.
Capping his Beer Never Broke My Heart Tour with back-to-back sell outs of Bridgestone Arena, the unassuming everydude hardly broke a sweat during a rousing, two-hour set without breaks, wrapping things up with a giant sing along. Along the way, he carried himself like a new school Hank Jr. — all casual confidence in off-the-rack clothes, with deceptively smart songs and full-throated vocals pumping out raspy, take-me-as-I-come pride. Here are the five best moments of Combs’ Friday night tour cap.
Take It Easy — As soon as Combs took the stage with the twangy strains of “Honky Tonk Highway,” the crowd erupted with frenzied energy — but it wasn’t due to anything Combs was doing. The North Carolina native just strolled around the stage, never hurraying or hyping himself up, and never needing to. By the time he seamlessly transitioned into “When It Rains It Pours” — which was typical of almost every song he played — he was in the zone with almost 20,000 fans singing along.
Don’t Call It a Throwback — A big part of Combs appeal is the throwback nature of his sound, which sticks out against a big portion of the rest of the format. Again built for casual comfort, it’s an organic, live-band approach, with few pre-recorded tracks or special effects. Perhaps that reminds fans of country’s recent past (the ’90s are a big influence on Combs), or perhaps the simple and straightforward sound just feels more “real.” Either way, Combs knows what he’s about and doesn’t overthink.
Bar Band on Steroids — Combs got his start as a college-town bar band leader, and it still shows. Back then he was doing 3-4 hour sets — basically serving as a human jukebox — and Friday night he delivered almost two hours with hardly any space between songs. Four tracks into the night, Combs finally addressed the crowd by shotgunning a beer as he rolled through the rollicking “1, 2 Many,” and later on let his band take the lead on a few choice covers. Combs never even left the stage during that time, instead sticking around to play cheerleader before erupting like a vocal volcano on Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Fortunate Son,” and keeping the good times going with Brooks & Dunn’s “Brand New Man.”
The Thank You – Near the end of the night, Combs finally took a few moments to consider how far he’s come. Clearly emotional and with tears welling in his eyes, he looked out over the packed arena and admitted he he’d been thinking about it a lot lately. With the tour ending Combs said he’s got six weeks off coming up, and as the crowd surged to lift him up, he said he’s honestly not sure what he’ll do without “this.” “You have changed my life,” he said in a shaky drawl. “You’ve changed the life of my family, of my crew, and there’s no way to thank you. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.” That honest moment of gratitude was the perfect segue into what now feels like a triumphant ballad, “This One’s for You,” originally written for the friends and bandmates Combs’ had to leave behind in chasing his Nashville dreams.
The Big Finish — The night — and the tour — finished with a bang, but it might not have been what fans were expecting. Having invited Thomas Rhett and Keith Urban to join him the night before, Combs went in a much rootsier direction Friday night. The energy rose again as “Beer Can,” “Don’t Tempt Me” and “Beer Never Broke My Heart” finished out the set, then Combs returned for a swaying sing along of “Wagon Wheel” with iconic string band Old Crow Medicine Show. Show openers Morgan Wallen and Jameson Rodgers joined in, sharing heartfelt hugs all around. The moment marked the end of something none of those artists will get back, and their bittersweet emotions were plain to see. After thanking the crowd once again for “an incredible night,” Combs signed off with the roaring “Hurricane,” the track that swept him on to country’s mainland just three years earlier.