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Saturday, December 14, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Luke Combs showcases talent, earnestness and hits in Spokane Arena concert

UPDATED: Sat., Nov. 2, 2019

“Longneck ice-cold beer never broke my heart” is the catchy refrain from Luke Combs’ recent hit “Beer Never Broke My Heart,” but this journalist could write the line, “That beer can nearly hit me in the head.”

Shortly after opening act Morgan Wallen shotgunned his second beer can (poke a hole in a can, then drink), he crushed and hurled it into the audience toward yours truly in the first set of center seats on the floor behind the general-admission, standing-room-only crowd.

Instead of reaching up to grab the can, I protected my head and two cellphones (one for photos and videos, the other for notes – I was working, after all), and the can fell to my left. “You could’ve caught that, Don!” my fellow concertgoer said. I shrugged. The night’s tally: two shotgunned beer cans for Wallen and one for Combs, plus beer spray for the audience.

North Carolina native Combs, one of country music’s hottest stars, brought his “Beer Never Broke My Heart” tour to Spokane Arena on Friday night in a sold-out show (it was smart to sell tickets at $25-50), and Wallen, Jameson Rodgers and Dee Jay Silver were part of the headliner concert.

The down-to-earth and likable Combs talked about growing up lower-middle class as an only child in North Carolina and how both of his parents had just recently retired. Combs shared that he took his first airplane ride at age 25 and is now 29, engaged and getting married “very soon.”

Combs’ earnestness, as well as Wallen and Rodgers’, was a refreshing change in an evening that showcased talent and Southern charm vs. spectacle. Combs’ setlist included his No. 1 hits “Hurricane,” “When It Rains, It Pours,” “One Number Away,” “She Got the Best of Me” and “Beautiful Crazy,” which he dedicated to his fiancée, Nicole Hocking.

Before the encore, Combs closed the show with his sixth No. 1 hit, “Beer Never Broke My Heart.” He sang every song with aplomb, including a cover of Brooks & Dunn’s “Brand New Man” and music from his new album, “What You See Is What You Get” (scheduled for release Friday), including “1, 2 Many” featuring Brooks & Dunn, “Reasons” and “Even Though I’m Leaving.”

The newcomer also referenced his catalog as far back as 2016 – yes, 2016 – with “Honky Tonk Highway,” “Must’ve Never Met You,” “Houston, We Got a Problem,” “One Number Away,” “This One’s for You,” “Out There,” “Sheriff You Want To,” “Beer Can” and “Don’t Tempt Me.”

Before singing “Dear Today,” he praised the everyday, hard-working people of Spokane who never get the spotlight – “the people who poured your beer tonight, the people who clean the bathroom toilets and the people who set up and will break down the Spokane Arena.”

During his introduction of the band after “This One’s for You,” each musician not only showed off his skills on his respective instrument, but many of them also showcased their strong vocal prowess – and Combs happily shared the spotlight with them.

Dee Jay Silver

Dee Jay Silver, the hype-man deejay in country music, had his usual stellar setlist of classic and current hits to get the crowd going and moving, and the addition of Lizzo’s chart-topper “Truth Hurts” was an audience favorite alongside Journey, Shania Twain, Def Leppard and more.

Silver chatted with The Spokesman-Review during Watershed at the Gorge in August and said hello post-concert Friday evening with up-and-coming music artist Jordan Rowe, who Silver said is 20. “You’re going to hear a lot about Jordan soon,” Silver said.

Jameson Rodgers

All-American-handsome Mississippi artist Jameson Rodgers hit the stage at 7 p.m. and said that he considers himself first and foremost a songwriter. He sings well, too, and he celebrated his first songwriting No. 1 “from just a few weeks ago,” Rodgers said, Chris Lane’s “Tell Me Everything,” by performing it.

Morgan Wallen

Another newcomer to the scene, Tennessee native Morgan Wallen’s debut album was released 1 1/2 years ago, and his catchy hits include “Up Down” and “Whiskey Glasses.” Wallen was talkative during his set and gives Luke Bryan a run for his money for tightest pair of blue jeans in country music – male and female artists.

At 8:20 p.m., Wallen was overshadowed by commotion at stage left. A man had proposed to his girlfriend, and she, fortunately, said yes – and chaos ensued. “What’s going on up there?” Wallen asked after singing. Upon being informed of the engagement, Wallen invited the couple onstage, congratulated them, showed off the ring and gave the celebratory couple multiple hugs.

Total class acts Wallen and Combs signed autographs and memorabilia after their performances at the foot of the stage, Combs an alarming number of (presumably smelly) cowboy boots.

Silver, Rodgers and Wallen provide a strong argument of why opening acts shouldn’t be skipped, as all three of them are stellar performers and received much appreciation from the audience – a sea of plaid, big hair, beer and cowboy boots – on a chilly Friday night in Spokane.

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