By Joe Malan, Staff Writer
Enid News & Eagle
Thudding bass, strobe lighting, elaborate entrances.
Yes, a show that brought together Justin Moore, Randy Houser and Josh Thompson on Saturday night may have been held in little-ol’ Enid, but it had the feel of a headliner show in a big city.
Since its grand opening earlier this year, Enid Event Center has hosted a trio of artists well-known throughout the country music circuit: Gary Allan, Rodney Atkins and Justin Moore. The center also has hosted MercyMe, a popular pop/Christian group, and in two weeks’ time, will host a Professional Bull Riders event.
Not bad for little-ol’ Enid.
But back to Justin Moore, though. I had the pleasure of sitting in Section 202, which, if you’re facing the stage, is to the right, and pretty close to the big speakers. So stage view was good and sound quality was unavoidably good.
As far as attendance goes, Section 202 was pretty well packed, as was floor-level seating and the standing-room area right in front of the stage.
Josh Thompson, an up-and-coming country musician from Wisconsin, kicked things off surprisingly a few minutes before 7 p.m., the scheduled start time of the show. It’s hard for me to describe the sound of certain artists in a genre if I haven’t listened to said genre all my life, which is the case with country, so my advice to anyone reading this column would be to go to Spotify, YouTube or iTunes and check out these artists for yourself.
I will say that, to me, Thompson’s music was upbeat and had almost a rock ‘n’ roll feel to it. But it clearly still was country. He began his set with “Hillbilly Limo,” then transitioned to “Way Out Here,” a song much of the audience seemed familiar with, and one I had checked out on Spotify prior to the show.
Thompson would play seven songs in all, the last two of which had to do with beer (the subject of many songs throughout the night): “Cold Beer With Your Name on It” and “Beer on the Table.”
Overall, a very good half hour. Thompson clearly was a professional. He was constantly getting the crowd involved and keeping things flowing.
After about a 15-minute break, Houser came out for about an 11-song set. Again, it’s difficult for me to compare music, so I can’t really describe Houser’s sound. But he was every bit the professional that Thompson was in getting the crowd revved up for both his music and Justin Moore’s.
(By the way, I have to give my props here to one of the band members, who I believe was wearing some sort of fedora with a feather in it. Nice look.)
During his portion of the show, Houser performed two of his most well-known tracks: “How Country Feels” and “Runnin’ Outta Moonlight.” Most, if not all, of the audience was on their feet during both.
Before “Runnin’ Outta Moonlight,” a 12-year-old girl named Macy, who was rather persistent with a couple of signs, was personally invited onstage by Houser for an impromptu photo op. The girl seemed awestruck, but Houser was more than happy to take a minute and get a few photos taken. The 12-year-old no doubt was left with an experience she’ll never forget.
After Houser’s approximately 50-minute set, the audience was treated to a special performance by 19-year-old country upstart Jordan Rager. Rager apparently was invited by Justin Moore to perform, and he certainly didn’t sound out of place among Thompson and Houser. After hearing his five- or six-song set, it was clear the kid has the potential to make it big someday.
Justin Moore finally made his grand entrance at about 9:05, and it was everything you’d expect at a show in Oklahoma City or some other big metropolitan area. The curtains opened to reveal a two-tier stage setup with ramps curving down either side. Fog filled the lower half of the stage, and after a brief musical intro, Moore made his grand appearance amid bright, flashing lights on top of the stage.
The crowd, which had been loud all night, went pretty much berserk as Moore, donning his trademark big white cowboy hat, leaped from the top of the stage as he began his set.
Moore performed all of his well-known songs, including “Til My Last Day,” “Point at You” and “Bait a Hook” (both my favorite and my wife’s favorite to sing along to).
The entire show had several highlights, included the aforementioned meeting between 12-year-old Macy and Randy Houser. But a sequence encompassing three songs in the middle of Moore’s performance was unforgettable.
After singing “Bait a Hook,” Moore played a ballad about his grandpa, who, he said, died three years ago from cancer. After that, Moore, in perhaps the biggest surprise of the night, belted out a gospel tune — the name of which escapes me — as a dedication to his grandma. The piece brought most, if not all, of the crowd to its feet as Moore reached a triumphant crescendo.
But the most emotional part of the night was still to come. After singing “If Heaven Wasn’t So Far Away,” Moore was handed a note by someone in the standing-room section of the audience that said Blake (whose last name I didn’t catch) had been cancer-free for a year. The audience roared loudly as Moore touted the achievement amid tears, pointing to the ones on his arm as proof of his emotion.
All in all, the show was excellent and Enid should be proud to have a facility that can bring in musicians who can stir up such emotion.
The $39.75 ticket price was more than reasonable, as attendees got to see not one, but four country artists perform. That atmosphere was great, too, as Moore verified himself, when he said Enid’s crowd was even better than the one in Springfield, Mo., the show before.
Not bad for little-ol’ Enid.