“Everybody here at the Mother Church of country music, are y’all ready for a good time?” Scotty McCreery asked the enthusiastic crowd at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium Wednesday night (3/11) as he took the stage for a highly anticipated show in the legendary venue.
Prior to the sold out, McCreery had been guest of honor upstairs in the Ryman at a private reception where he was presented a special RIAA-certified gold album plaque in recognition of his last album Seasons Change selling more than 500,000 units. “I don’t know where to even begin to say how much Seasons Change means to me or how proud I am of this album. The success of this album changed my life,” McCreery told the crowd of music business executives and journalists gathered to congratulate him. “If you listen to all the lyrics, then you should have a strong idea of who I am. It’s that personal. The fact that the fans and country radio loved the music means everything to me. I want to thank Triple 8 Management and Triple Tigers Records for their belief in me and for working with me every step of the way. I want to thank my band and crew for all their hard work through the years. This is a team accomplishment and a true highlight of my career.”
Wednesday night’s show marked McCreery’s first appearance at the Ryman in more than six years. During the reception, he admitted to Sounds Like Nashville that he had been nervous for days because playing the Ryman is so meaningful for him. “But today I woke up and thought, ‘It’s cool. I’m ready.”
Indeed he was. After impressive opening sets by Heather Morgan and Adam Doleac, McCreery took the stage looking confident and sounding strong as he delivered a thoroughly entertaining show that included such fan favorites as “Feelin’ It,” “Wherever You Are,” “You Make That Look Good,” “The Trouble with Girls” and “In Between.”
McCreery informed the crowd that all proceeds from his merchandise sold at the show would go to benefit those affected by the tornadoes last week. The crowd roared their approval.
During the evening it was obvious McCreery has a special bond with his audience and he took time to talk about the changes in his life and career since his previous performance at the Ryman. “I started in 2011, but didn’t really get going till 2017 with a song called ‘Five More Minutes,’” he told the crowd.
Then he talked about meeting his wife, Gabi, in elementary school when they were five-years-old, and she still has the diary that says she wanted to marry him back then. They were friends for a long time and dated for seven years before he popped he question. He then sang his second No. 1 hit “This is It,” penned for his lovely wife.
Several times during the evening McCreery spoke of his fondness for his home state North Carolina. He shared with the crowd how much North Carolinians loved beach music and the popular dance The Shag. He then launched into “Barefootin’” from Seasons Change. Suddenly four enormous beach balls were thrown into the audience, and the venue erupted into a beach party as the crowd pummeled the balls up and around the auditorium while McCreery delivered the fun, up tempo tune.
As the crowd settled back down, McCreery confessed that there was another girl he had a crush on during his junior year of high school—Jennifer Lopez. Thanks to the American Idol experience, he got to hang out with her for months during the competition. Of course, McCreery won the 10th season of Idol in 2011. He thanked the crowd for supporting him during the competition and spoke of how it impacted his life—including the fact that he won a pick up truck he named Loretta, which he still drives.
McCreery also used the evening to let the crowd know he’s been working on new music. He shared two new songs—“Fallin’ for a Stranger” and “Twice a Child.” Before the latter song, he told the audience about his beloved grandfather and introduced his grandmother Janet, who was sitting in the balcony next to Scotty’s mom Judy. McCreery spoke of how hard it was to see his grandfather get older and slow down due to health issues. He then sang the emotional ballad “Twice a Child,” which was written by Casey Beathard, Monty Criswell and Shane Minor. McCreery’s performance of the powerful song elicited a prolonged standing ovation.
Among the evening’s other highlights was a medley of traditional country classics. McCreery unleashed his distinctive voice on the late Conway Twitty’s signature hit “Hello Darlin’” and then segued into Randy Travis’ beloved classic “Forever and Ever Amen.” He also thrilled the crowd with Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues” and Alan Jackson’s “Chattahoochee” before finishing the segment with an energetic rendition of John Michael Montgomery’s “Sold (The Grundy County Auction Incident).”
“God bless country music,” McCreery said at the end of the medley. “I could sing that stuff all night long.”
As the evening drew to a close, McCreery thanked the crowd for braving the coronavirus to come to his show and urged them to wash their hands after they left. He performed “Home in My Mind” and delivered a potent cover of Garth Brooks’ “If Tomorrow Never Comes” before thrilling the crowd with his poignant chart-topper “Five More Minutes.” He then exited the stage during a standing ovation but the crowd was not ready for the evening to be over. They kept clapping and roaring until he returned and encored with the Josh Turner hit “Your Man.”
Then he did something fans hardly ever experience. McCreery walked along the edge of the stage after the show ended, taking selfies, shaking hands and signing autographs for the fans. That’s the kind of audience connection that fuels a long and successful career. McCreery looks sure to enjoy the same kind of longevity in country music as his heroes, and he deserves it.