Cole Swindell is into beer, whiskey, pretty girls and pickup trucks – sometimes in that order.
That’s the takeaway from the Georgia country singer’s hour-plus set, which kicked off The Big Fresno Fair concert series Wednesday night.
Purists might cringe at any association Swindell has to country music. They would have some right. Minus Swindell’s vocal twang and multiple references to the country music fans in the audience, much of the 18-song set seemed rooted in pop and rock music – what with the “wooah oooah” sing-alongs and blazing guitar solos. The exception, “No Can Left Behind,” is a ’90s-inspired honky-tonk number and was my favorite song of the night.
This isn’t your granddad’s country music. Heck, it’s not even you dad’s country music.
Swindell grew up on ’90s country listening to guys like Tim McGraw and Kenny Chesney – both of whom he covered during the set. His music is at least a generation removed from “classic country,” much less anything close to “country and western.”
Here we get mostly mid-tempo, mostly anthemic songs about going to the club and getting drunk and falling in and out of love, played by guys in baseball caps and skinny jeans.
It’s not without its merits. Swindell is at his best on four-on-the-floor rockers like “Flatliners,” which was recorded with Dierks Bentley and has a lyric that rhymes 7 and 7 (the drink) with heaven (as in “never been this close to”) and 11 (as in “got her pretty turned up to”). These are songs with simple melodies and clear messages that are sometimes right there in the title – “Brought to you By Beer,” “You Should be Here,” “Ain’t Worth the Whiskey.”
Plus, the guy isn’t at all bad looking (“sooo hot” is how one fan put it). He’s fun to watch and totally engaged with and appreciative of his crowd. He spent the final refrain of the night walking the stage shaking hands and signing autographs – on cell phones, cowboy boots, even an American flag.
▪ Swindell is a Chevy guy.
▪ Fair concerts end early. Swindell played just over an hour, with no opener. It made for a quick show. That didn’t seem to disappoint fans.
▪ There were a lot of empty seats as Swindell took the stage. Those filled in halfway through the set.
▪ Reserved seating seemed to be just a suggestion in my section.
▪ Of course, Swindell brought out a red Solo cup.
▪ Best homemade sign of the night: “These nurses know mouth to mouth.”
Be sure to check back in with The Beehive for reviews on all The Big Fresno Fair concerts.