Photographs by Ray Williams.
“You’re not waiting for a movie to start”, Randy Houser yelled while people were sitting with their popcorn in their laps during his set at the Molson Amphitheatre on July 2nd. He wanted to have everyone out of their seats and having fun, which is the clear objective of any performing musician. However, he was on top of this with each and every song. With a rather large set for an opening act, having been someone who had never been to a country concert before this (admittedly), I cannot vouch for how most country artists open for a main act. Regardless, Houser’s set was rather large with a large assortment of lights and his band sprawled out behind him. The volume was loud, the guitars (slide and electric) were soaring, and the kick drum was pounding. This may have been a country show, but it was one that had a rock mentality behind it.
With songs that would seem okay on album but resonate better live, Houser played material that seemed to work well with everyone and not alienate specific listeners. While the music itself felt a bit safe, Houser and his band had a lot of fun on stage and focused on getting these songs through to everyone. What I have learned from this and Brad Paisley’s sets is that country shows love to have fun but they love to take care of their audience as well. These musicians act like homeowners with guests over, not as invited friends coming to hang out. With Houser checking in on us all of the time and performing with moderation (not too out there and not too reserved), he may have been an opener but he acted like a headliner.