Some people might think country music doesn’t have a home in big cities like New York. And to a certain extent, they’re right. But rising country star Zach Bryan made a crisp, late-September evening in the Big Apple feel like home — no matter where home is to you.
Performing on his country-wide headlining run, the American Heartbreak Tour, Bryan and opening act Charles Wesley Godwin let their brands of Americana-infused country ring out during their Sept. 27 stop in Manhattan from the picturesque rooftop venue, Pier 17.
Goodwin took the stage around 7PM local time, just as the sun was setting. He performed tracks from his two full-length albums: Seneca and How the Mighty Fall. Fan favorites “Hardwood Floors” and “Jesse” drew big reactions from the crowd, showing the crossover between he and Bryan’s fanbases. It was his closing cover of John Denver’s iconic track “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” however, that really warmed up the audience’s voices.
Bryan took the stage at roughly 8:15PM, after dusk had set in. He spent the next two hours performing songs across his already-extensive catalog, which can be credited to his 34-song major label debut, American Heartbreak.
It isn’t easy to pinpoint which songs from Zach’s catalog are his fanbase’s favorites because they seem to know the words to nearly every track. There are notable ones like “Something In the Orange” and “Heading South,” which have amassed over 100 million streams each on Spotify. But even with over 75 songs to his name and counting, there are a number of them that he could switch out of his at-times 20-plus track setlist, and his fanbase will know the words regardless.
Bryan decided to kick off this particular night with “Open the Gate” from American Heartbreak. His melodic croons seamlessly gave way to signature bellows, setting the scene for the moment the crowd had anxiously anticipated.
He followed this by jumping at a sporadic pace around his discography, but the audience never lost a step the entire night. “God Speed” from his debut album, DeAnn, was next, and then he jumped back to American Heartbreak with “Highway Boys.”
Regardless of which songs Bryan decides to play during any given performance, the immense nature of his personal-yet-relatable writing style makes the audience feel as though they’re walking through his highs and lows with him. From the heartbreak and desperation of tracks like “Condemned” and “No Cure” to the nostalgia and free-spirit of “Heavy Eyes” and “Traveling Man,” crowds take a journey with him every time he takes the stage. Step by step, note by note.
With the venue being outside on this particular night in New York, it was very easy to forget it was taking place in one of the biggest cities in the world. If one closed their eyes, the combination of Bryan’s unforgettable tales and the smell of fall as it began its yearly descent would make them feel as though they were in any number of the small towns scattered across America.
Zach concluded the central part of his set with a blistering performance of the aforementioned “Heavy Eyes.” He has previously recounted the difficulty he and his band had while recording the track, as its pace is far quicker than most of his other songs. But they had no problem soaring through it in New York, with the crowd effortlessly mirroring each note in unison.
For the encore, Bryan first played his newest single, “Burn, Burn, Burn.” The song is an introspective tale of his hopes and fears. Despite its newness, he is already performing it in an encore slot, and a majority of the crowd appeared to already know every word.
His final act came in the form of the seemingly only mainstay of his sets: “Revival.” If you’re a Zach Bryan fan, you know every word of it, like the back of your hand. And if you’ve never heard it before, you will undoubtedly know the words by the end of the performance. Taken from his Elisabeth album, Bryan and his band perform an extended version of the track, going through the first two verses and then allowing each band member a solo while returning to the hook after each. The song ends up being around 10 minutes each time, but it is slowly becoming one of the most notable sing-along tracks of country’s modern era.
New York may not be the first place people think of when thinking about country music, but Zach Bryan made it feel more than just an appropriate setting — he made it feel like home.
Top 10 Kelsey Waldon Songs
With three albums of original tunes already to her name and another, No Regular Dog, coming on Aug. 12 via Prine’s Oh Boy Records, Waldon has accumulated a vast catalog of well known hits and undercover gems. Her songs cover everything from her Western Kentucky upbringing to working as a bartender upon her moving to Nashville, self discovery, the hypocrisy of religion and more.
In 2019, she became the first new signee to Oh Boy Records in 15 years — and for good reason. Let’s take a look at our choices for Kelsey Waldon’s 10 best songs, so far: