If you’re ever walking around downtown Tacoma and you see a wave of flannels, cowboy hats and boots then you can infer there is likely a country music concert happening at the Tacoma Dome. In an area shrouded by people with a distaste for the genre, the Dome will help you feel at home with a country concert. People of all ages were in attendance at this concert — from toddlers wearing ear protection to older folks who have never looked happier. Going into the “Blake Shelton Friends and Heroes Tour 2020,” I was a little hesitant not knowing what to expect from an artist that I have never seen nor been excited about, but by the end of the night things had changed.
The opener for the concert was Lauren Alaina, a runner up from season 10 of “American Idol” who has done well for herself after releasing two albums of her own and collaborating with other artists, such as Kane Brown. She writes the majority of her own songs and talked about how song writing helps her understand and work through things that happen in her life. Before most of her songs, Alaina provided some background as to what each was about. One song in particular that stood out was “The Other Side,” a song she wrote after her stepfather died of cancer.
Alaina maintained a close connection with her audience, and even pulled a young girl up on stage who had a sign that stated this was her first concert — the look on that girls face was priceless. The only downside about the opener was that it was difficult to hear her vocals — it was almost as if her mic wasn’t turned up all the way while the music was on full blast.
When Shelton took the stage, the crowd went wild and ready to see the person they came for. He opened with some of his bigger songs which got the crowd ready for the night. From cracking jokes regarding what he saw people doing around the stage to commenting on the signs fans brought, Shelton cultivated an interactive performance with the crowd.
However, it didn’t take long for him to show his petty side. Shelton is a judge on the show “The Voice,” so he took a moment to indulge in a few pitches for the show while also dishing jabs at other singing competition shows, especially American Idol — which is conflicting considering his opener almost won American Idol and one of the biggest names in country music, Carrie Underwood, who won season four.
In between parts of Shelton’s setlist he had three big names in country join him on stage: John Anderson, The Bellamy Brothers, and Trace Adkins played some of their hit songs. The audience participation during each one was impressive and the echoes were steller. People throughout the arena pulled out their phones and lighters without hesitation, the audience naturally knew when to bring them out.
Once these acts stepped down, Shelton came back on to give the audience flack about their heightened participation in accordance with his guests’ songs. But when it came to him, the audience was less lively. Afterward, he teased that the audience obliged for a couple of songs just to make him happy. Toward the end of his set, Shelton, Anderson, Adkins and the Bellamy Brothers came out and each played an acoustic song with the others singing backup. This time it was a competition, based on the audience participation with singing, lights, clapping and stomping, volume would declare the winner — let’s just say that Shelton didn’t win.
Shelton surprised the audience with a lot of old school favorites. With his twangy voice and musical instruments, these songs can be closely related to what most people think of when they hear country music. Apart from these, he also played his newer songs that are more pop-like compared to the traditional sounds of country. One that stood out among the rest was the new single with his wife Gwen Stefani, “Nobody But You.” He sang this duet with the music video playing in the background in order to show and play Stefani’s part.
All in all, I feel that he did a good job demonstrating his evolution as an artist throughout the last 20 years and offered a glimpse into how he will continue to grow. Needless to say, the hesitancy possessed at the beginning of the concert quickly diminished due to the impressive show Shelton and the rest of the tour put on.