Florida Georgia Line pulled off a made-for-radio miracle Wednesday night (May 29th), treading hallowed ground for their first ever headlining show at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium – the legendary “Mother Church of Country Music” and early home of the Grand Ole Opry.
The concert was broadcast live on SiriusXM’s The Highway and only SiriusXM subscribers were in the audience, as the duo celebrated their journey “from Highway Find to holy ground.” The station famously began playing FGL’s mega-hit “Cruise” long before the act even had a record deal, helping spur their convention-defying climb and the superstar status which has since followed.
Having come so far from that time, the big question going into Wednesday night was how FGL’s stadium-sized swagger would translate back to a 2,000 seat theatre. But the incendiary duo of Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley have never needed fireballs or laser shows to captivate a crowd. With just a five piece band behind them and much less stage to work with than usual, they used every inch of the historic floorboards, delivering 90 minutes of hits, heart and high times.
Here are the five best things we saw at Florida Georgia Line’s first headlining show at the Ryman Auditorium.
Aint Nothin’ Like a Ryman Party – The night started with a crash of cymbals and an explosion of guitars, with Hubbard providing a bit of a public service announcement right up front. “I’d just like to remind everyone this is still an FGL show,” he said, looking out over rows and rows of 100+ year old church pews. “Which means this is not a sitting-down party!” The duo pumped even more energy into the room by flipping the script, playing their longtime show closer “Cruise” as the night’s third song, and kept the party atmosphere going with favorites like “This Is How We Roll” and “Anything Goes” – which showed off the sharp edge of their sawtoothed vocal blend.
Holy Moments – Befitting of the “Mother Church” setting, Hubbard and Kelley also made sure to spend some time in the deeper thinking, more traditionally-flavored corners of their catalogue. They brought out old-timey microphones and each grabbed an acoustic guitar for the bluegrass-inflected “Simple” (with BK on a pint-sized parlor guitar), and led the crowd in a stirring dedication to the nation’s military and first responders on the reflective “Dirt.” But the track “H.O.L.Y.” amounted to an almost spiritual moment. “Welcome to church camp!” Hubbard shouted as the song wound down, asking everyone to get their hands up and sway with the music. They did that gladly, singing along to the final chorus like a giant choir.
Throwback Fun – Now four albums into their career, the duo made sure to sprinkle their Ryman setlist with tracks from each LP. Tracks like the defiant “Round Here” sent waves of euphoric chill bumps through the crowd, feeling like a manifesto for Music City itself. And 2013’s “Stay” (their fourth single and actually a cover of rockers Black Stone Cherry) brought back memories of FGL’s early days – back when many pegged them as a flash in the pan.
New Music – That’s not to say that Hubbard and Kelley are looking in the rearview, and Wednesday night was full of new tunes from their February-released Can’t Say I Ain’t Country album. The buzzy “Colorado” kicked the night off, followed by the slinky dude’s anthem, “Y’all Boys.” Current single “Talk You Out Of It” showed their R&B/’90s pop influence, standing alongside the tender “Blessings,” the quick-talking “Speed of Love” and the quirky “Can’t Say I Ain’t Country.”
A Little Help From Their Friends – After returning to the stage for the night’s encore, FGL took a gamble that paid off in spades – and showed that this show really was all about the fans. Explaining they had another life-changing song on tap, but that Hubbard was tired of wrecking his voice by singing falsetto, the duo picked a fan out of the crowd to play Bebe Rexha on 2018’s record-breaking “Meant to Be” crossover. That fan turned out to be a sweet lady they affectionately called Miss Terry – and Terry did not miss her chance to shine. With the whole crowd cheering her on, she stood between the stars and went note for note on the track – even doing a few of the song’s dance moves. And when it was her turn to take the lead on Rexha’s verse, Terry straight up nailed it, earning a roar from the audience and an autographed guitar to go with the memory. From there the guys finished the night out in fitting style for Nashville, delivering the stand-your-ground anthem “This Is How We Roll” and a simple message. “Thank you for believing in us,” Hubbard said as they left the stage.