By: Michael Cerio
For your anniversary you might celebrate with dinner and flowers and anything without kids, but for 92.5 XTU they celebrate with guitars and drinks shaped like guitars and an unrivaled event that has become a staple of summer.
For at least one evening each year the City Of Brotherly Love becomes Nashville North, an idea that was evident as Thomas Rhett put the wraps on the 33rd 92.5 XTU Anniversary Show at the BB&T Pavilion.
After asking the crowd where they were from in the Camden, New Jersey venue, Rhett solved the common conundrum of location with a simple statement – “Wherever you’re from you’re loud. You’re the loudest crowd I’ve ever played for.”
Rhett might just mean it, as the sea of seven thousand gathered on the waterfront had reached a fever pitch by the time the “Craving You” singer hit the stage in ripped jeans, white tee, and an army green jacket.
With his “Home Team” guitar strap, Rhett stalked the stage as the lights swirled and the LED screens blazed a dizzying array of images. His “24K Magic” cover was a perfect send-off to the capacity crowd.
Many hours earlier, they gathered in lines that stretched across the street to enter the annual XTU celebration. As they trickled in, fresh from epic tailgate sessions, music began intimately under the overhang of the “Liquid Lounge”.
On a stage to the side of the main attraction, not unlike the Broadway bars of Nashville, Carly Pearce began the afternoon with a showcase for her dynamic voice and a stomping, strutting cover of Dolly Parton’s “9 To 5”. She would give way to Adam Craig, the soaring singer and storyteller who won over the early audience with his humble sly grin and lovelorn tunes.
“If you feel so inclined for moving and shaking and getting a little drunk” Craig said to the growing crowd, “that’s what we’re here for.”
The thirteen year Nashville vet who has recently transitioned from writing hits to performing future chart-toppers himself made the most of his spotlight on Saturday with sing-a-longs and six-string love songs. There was more than one newfound Adam Craig fans under the awning of the “Liquid Lounge”.
Back inside, the lawn spots began to be staked out for blankets and beers as Dylan Scott kicked off the indoor festivities. Being big on banter and featuring a cover of Keith Whitley, Scott’s set served as a nice appetizer to the more kinetic performance of Trent Harmon.
Harmon, the American Idol winner, was slender and slick as he bounced about the stage. He effortlessly intertwined Hauser’s “How Country Feels” with The Chainsmokers “Closer” and somehow made them both a little better. Harmon would close out his time with a song he wrote during his Idol run, “There’s A Girl”.
The shine and sheen of Harmon led to the mudflap rock of Granger Smith who took the stage in the early evening. The grind it out, rock-riffed country riled up the party and turned it to eleven with a rousing rendition of Garth’s “Ain’t Going Down Til’ The Sun Comes Up”.
The most evident part of the evening was the widening scope of country music. The spirit and sensibility of country has seemed to touch a lot of talented people lately, and there’s room for all of them. After Granger Smith removed his shirt to the tune of another crunchy rock riff, Dan + Shay took the stage to the tune of Kanye West. The pop pendulum had swung back to the singing and songwriting duo.
The “Road Trippin’” singers spun and swerved across the stage, paying patronage to New Jersey with a boisterous Bon Jovi cover of “You Give Love A Bad Name”.
Out on the lawn the vibe remained the same, deep in the groove of a well orchestrated evening.
With Thomas Rhett batting cleanup, the anniversary had reached its apex. It was a night of diverse styles but one signature message. This is country music, this is a good time, and we get there with 92.5 XTU.