Kelsea Ballerini has done her homework. Her first arena show at the Tyson Events Center was filled with all the bells and whistles you’d come to expect from a headliner and enough special touches to make her stand out in an ever-expanding field.
The headline to Saturday’s concert, though, belonged to Brett Young, her opener, who came out, started his first song and quit, admitting his voice had given out and he wasn’t able to continue. “I apologize,” he told the crowd, then exited.
Meanwhile, opener Brandon Ratcliff hosted an impromptu meet-and-greet on the sidelines while stagehands reset the stage for Ballerini.
By the time she came out, the fans were ready to be wowed.
Thanks to several video screens (that made her seem like she was in her own real-time music video), the 25-year-old didn’t disappoint. She worked the crowd better than Shriners during the circus. Opening with “Miss Me More,” she was ably abetted by those screens that helped put her smack dab in the middle of a host of scenes.
With “I Hate Love Songs,” the lyrics were projected on candy hearts, letting her get a sing-along like no other.
Ballerini changed clothes several times, talked plenty and shared her dreams as a 15-year-old. Most recently, she was inducted in the Grand Ole Opry (its youngest current member) and joked, “you’re seeing me at my downfall.”
For those unfamiliar with Ballerini, she’s much more audience-friendly than Taylor Swift (she went right into the middle of the throng, shook hands, danced, you name it), less teasing than Laura Alaina. There’s a Carrie Underwood vibe (she’s an idol) that wears well, particularly when she was strutting down the runaway in oh-so-high boots.
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Ballerini had more than a few hits to share. After “Miss Me More,” she rolled through “Fun and Games,” “Graveyard,” “Get Over Yourself,” “XO” (which also had great visuals) and “Unapologetically” before getting to “Love Songs.”
Then, it was an another march through a second half of hits. She said she was going to give 150 percent and she did.
Ratcliff, who produced a handful of mellow songs before Young’s bad news, was a good fit for someone as sprightly as Ballerini.
Dressed in black, he got good mileage out of “Number in My Phone” and "Rules of Breaking Up.” Easily, he could be a pop star if he decided to go in that direction.
While the Young news was received with a thud, it couldn’t be helped. When the voice goes, the voice goes. And he promised he’d be back.
Fans, at least, have that to look forward to.
Meanwhile, they got a chance to see why Ballerini has moved up a rung on the ladder of country success.
In a word, she's a keeper.