Embattled country star Morgan Wallen stole the show at Luke Bryan’s sold out Nashville concert Friday night (July 30), surprising fans with his first major onstage appearance since controversy effectively “canceled” his career back in February.
Arriving unannounced in the middle of Bryan’s set, Wallen was welcomed with open arms by 15,000 or so fans at Bridgestone Arena — and seemed to have the full support of not just Bryan, but the other superstars on stage.
Wallen’s big moment was without a doubt the loudest portion of the concert, as fans screamed with deafening power for close to a full minute. The scene unfolded during a star-studded section that had already brought Florida Georgia Line’s Tyler Hubbard and Jason Aldean to the stage, and as Wallen soaked in the thundering cheers, Bryan and his other guests sat on coolers behind him — as if literally showing the world they had Wallen’s back. In late January, he had been captured on film drunkenly using a racial slur to tease a friend, and the condemnation that followed has kept him mostly out of the public eye ever since. But his Friday night return to the spotlight was something Nashville has rarely seen.
Standing on the catwalk in a black T-shirt, jeans and a backwards ball cap, Wallen looked overwhelmed by the response at first … and for a moment, he was unsure of what to play.
“Here’s a song about being true to yourself,” he eventually said, before launching in to an acoustic version of “More Than My Hometown.” “That’s been hard for me to do lately, but, here I am.”
The crowd roared as Wallen sang in his signature raspy drawl, matching Wallen note for note and reaching hard-to-believe volume levels as the tune ended. The Tennessee native put his hand over his heart and was about to leave the stage, but instead, Bryan popped up to hum the hook to Wallen’s multi-Platinum breakout, “Whiskey Glasses,” and Wallen transitioned into that song with the same crowd reaction. After that, Bryan and his pals all stuck around to rock out on Aldean’s “She’s Country,” before the unforgettable moment passed into memory. But it will be talked about for quite some time.
Bryan and his sold out crowd both took a huge breath as the shock of what had just unfolded subsided, and he continued on with a show that was full of triumphant euphoria — even without Wallen’s return. But it was clearly the show’s biggest moment, and most likely, a preview of what’s to come as Morgan Wallen moves forward.