Cole Swindell took New York to Georgia last night. The singer performed a killer country set at Terminal 5 that caused something very near a transportation south of the mason-dixon line.
Opening his set with “Hope you Get Lonely Tonight”, the second single off his self-titled debut album, Swindell kept the show moving at high-speed, like a red Chevy powering down a dusty Georgia dirt road. He performed four or five songs before ever stopping to address the crowd. With only a few ballads on the setlist, Swindell’s driving music made the 75 minute performance felt like it happened in half that time.
The venue was packed, yours truly stuffed about three rows back from the stage in the middle of the ground floor mosh pit. Two balcony levels also appeared stuffed with people, meaning about 3,000 New Yorkers came out to party, southern style.
Swindell’s energy is something to behold. Used to performing in arenas with the likes of Jason Aldean and Florida Georgia Line, Swindell has toured with his Down Home Tour to these kinds of venues for the last three years. His cherubic face and Mama’s boy-like charm created an instant bond with the rowdy crowd. Swindell made eye contact with seemingly everyone in the room. Swindell’s personal love for each one of his fans was on full display last night. At one point, he even downed a shot of Whiskey that was tossed to him from the front row. He toasted the fan, and they chugged together. Terminal 5 became a honky-tonk.
Swindell powered through over 15 of his songs, including all five of his #1 country hits, along with “Middle of a Memory”, which is expected to go #1 this week. Other highlights included “Flatliner”, “You Should Be Here”, and his cover of Brooks and Dunn’s “Red Dirt Road.” He also presented a few new numbers from his latest release, Down Homes Sessions III.
As is custom at most country concerts, Swindell brought it down for an acoustic number in the middle of his set. He was joined by just his guitarist for one of his newest songs, “Remember Boys.” This song allowed Swindell’s whiskey-warm voice to shine. And the final song of the night, “Let me See Ya Girl,” features a surprise mash-up that you have to hear for yourself.
‘Bro-Country’ has a bad wrap. But Swindell and his contemporaries are masters at this new subgenre of country music. The term was originally coined to label the kind of hip-hop and electronic-influenced country music of Florida Georgia Line and other new Nashville stars. And while some may use it derogatorily, the newest batch of country’s finest have embraced the label and used it to expand the reaches of country music.
Country music has always been a music of growth. While rock and pop often use the same formulas to churn out hits, country artists keep bringing in other musical influences to push the bounds of what it means to be, ‘Country’. Swindell is a master at this new mix, noting during last night’s show that, “Country is just about being real. It’s why so many of us relate to it.”
The concert’s most poignant moment came during the main set closer, “You Ain’t Worth the Whiskey.” He sent its final two choruses out to police, veterans, and active military, rallying the crowd to sing in support of all our heros. The crowd heartily joined, singing loud and proud. That’s one of the things that make country music great: deep, abiding patriotism that knows no politics.
Speaking of politics, Swindell barely mentioned the election. He admirably avoided all talk of the events of the previous night. He, and the crowd of country lovers, collectively made sure the night was about fun and letting loose, “No matter if your left side or right side.”
Let loose they did. It was amazing to see. Country music was just what everyone in that room needed. The room became friends, and Cole Swindell quickly became the coolest friend anyone could have.