Luke Combs

Luke Combs • May 8, 2024 • Rice – Eccles Stadium

Reviewed and Photographed by Kevin Rolfe

This might have been the biggest concert event of the 2024 summer.  If anything it got the Utah concert summer concert season off to a rousing start! I like to think of this like the Daytona 500.  It’s NASCAR’s biggest event. But unlike the Super Bowl, it’s the first race in the season. Country Music megastar, Luke Combs brought his Growin’ Up and Gettin’ Old Tour to Utah for a two-night residency at Rice-Eccles Stadium on the campus of the University of Utah.  The stadium was jam-packed with Country Music fans on both nights.  I was fortunate to attend night two on Saturday, June 8.

Because I was set to attend the second of the two shows, I did all I could to stay off social media to avoid spoilers.  I knew one thing that wouldn’t be spoiled was knowing that I was in for a big night filled with some of the biggest hits in Country Music.  Luke Combs was joined by Jordan Davis, Mitchell Tenpenny, Drew Parker, and Colby Acuff.  What a huge opportunity for these rising stars.  Due to how difficult it was for me to find parking, I missed Colby and Drew. Judging by the vibes inside Rice-Eccles Stadium when I walked in, these two musicians did their job opening the show.

Mitchell Tenpenny

I was happy to make it inside the stadium in time to catch Mitchell Tenpenny’s set.  Walking through the tunnel and down to the stadium floor I could see fans of Tenpenny all over the place.  One group of fans told me I was in store for a great set.  They were not wrong.  The Nashville native walked on stage with a huge smile on his face.  Mitchell and his entire band seemed so excited to be walking out to a stadium crowd.  Who wouldn’t be?!  

Mitchell Tenpenny and the band played through as many songs as they could get through in their brief set.  I was impressed with the efficiency.  He blazed through a good number of songs while making the set feel personal and as if he had all the time in the world on stage.  A really good cover of the Matchbox Twenty hit, “3 am”.  They had the crowd singing along.  And while it’s fun to sing along with covers, this crowd had a blast singing along to Tenpenny’s big hit, “Drunk Me”.  The audience seemed to have as much fun as the band.  Which is impressive because we were still about two hours away from the headliner.  So for them to engage the way they did says a lot about the type of show Mitchell put on.

Jordan Davis

Next up, with the coveted but sometimes unenviable spot right before the headliner was a star in his own right, Jordan Davis.  Most of the crowd had arrived, and it seemed like people were really excited about this set.  What a great situation to be in.  If there is a negative to going on right before the headliner, it would be because people are excited and just want to get to Luke Combs.  From what I could tell.  People were ok with waiting for Luke if it meant watching Jordan’s set.  As I made my way from my seat back to the photo pit, I noticed a number of Jordan Davis t-shirts and signs made just for Davis.

Once the band got into place and began playing, Jordan Davis stormed on stage to a rousing ovation.  Similar to Tenpenny, Davis and his band looked elated to be performing for this capacity crowd.  I was impressed with how he was able to cover so much ground on that massive stage.  There wasn’t an area that went uncovered.  I felt like everyone from the general admission to the highest seat felt like they received attention from Jordan Davis.  The more the set went along, the more fired up the crowd seemed to be.

Jordan Davis is a headliner and superstar in his own right.  With four #1 hits to his name and another with Country Music star, Luke Bryan, Davis has seen success in Nashville that many dream of.  As his set continued I noticed that he felt like the headliner.  People were going crazy and each time he’d play a big hit, the stadium would get loud.  He had command over the crowd and I can imagine him doing really well here in Utah on his own tour.

Luke Combs

Photo Credit: Kevin Rolfe

The time had come.  Rice-Eccles Stadium was packed with Country Music fans.  Luke Combs was moments away from appearing.  I placed myself inside the photo pit as what I believe was the loudest sing along to Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” I’ve ever heard outside of a Neil concert.  The stadium was rockin!

Just then, the band walked on stage and started playing.  Everyone was on their feet.  Then from the top of center stage, the man of the hour, Luke Combs walked out with his arms wide open greeting his fifty plus thousand fans.  He opened with “The Kind of Love We Make”.  It was the first of many songs that fans would sing every single word.  I found myself just looking around at all the fans and then back at Luke.  I had to remind myself to keep shooting.  As much as I loved taking pictures, I couldn’t wait to be part of this energetic crowd.

Photo Credit: Kevin Rolfe

The night was perfect for a concert like this.  It was hot all day.  As the sun went down so did the temperature.  But just enough so that we could enjoy being outside without cooking.  It was cool enough to where all we needed to do was dance to a few songs and we were plenty warm.  Cowboy hats, plaid shirts, and denim beyond denim as far as the eye could see filled Rice-Eccles.  This was in every sense a COUNTRY concert.  If you’ve never been to a Country Music concert, I highly recommend it.  Even if you don’t enjoy the genre.  People are hell bent on having a good time.  It feels impossible not to.  

I loved hearing “Where the Wild Things Are” live.  It was surprising to hear it so soon but it fit perfectly as the third song.  I was impressed with how good Luke sounded.  He has such a natural voice and it filled that big stadium with not problem.  Even with the sun still setting, fans got their phone lights out for the first big love song of the set, “Forever After All”.  I saw some couples cuddling up and even more dancing to the song.  I have a feeling that “Forever After All” was “their song”.

One of my favorite moments of Luke Combs set wasn’t even a song.  He shared with us that many people ask him what he would be doing if he wasn’t a Country singer.  Luke told us that he’s thought about the answer to that question for a long time. 

He said “I would be doing exactly what I’m doing tonight.  I just wouldn’t be doing it in a stadium.  I’d be doing it somewhere else. Nobody would know my name probably.  Nobody would know my songs.  I’d be playing other people’s songs most of the time.  And I’d be just as happy doing that as what I’m doing tonight.  Because this is what I love to do. This is what I feel like God put me on this earth to do.  To sing songs for people.  I’m real glad I get to do that every night for people like you.”  He thanked us for allowing him and the band to do what they do. 

Now I’ve heard a lot of musicians say something along those lines.  And sometimes I believe them. But I must say that I 100% believed Luke when he was saying this.  He comes across so genuine and I could see him in a small club or a bar covering songs and having that big Combs smile while he was doing it.  He followed up that moment by singing “Doin’ This”.

In the middle of the set, Luke Combs gave his band mates a moment to shine.  I loved that he did this.  First they did a cover of the Shania Twain hit, “Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under”.  I did not see this coming.  I don’t think the crowd did either.  They loved singing along to the surprise cover.  That was followed by Train’s big hit, “Drops of Jupiter”.  The Na Na Na’s at the end were thunderous.  It’s a really fun song to sing along to.  They finished the band intros with “What Was I Thinkin’” by Dierks Bentley.  

After the band intros, it felt like the show was kicked into another gear.  Songs like “Lovin’ on You” and “Beautiful Crazy” had the band both rockin out and rocking back and forth.  It was impressive how we could go from blowing the seams off the stadium to feeling the emotions of a good ol’ fashioned love song.

Luke Combs took another moment in the show to address the crowd.  He had his acoustic guitar strapped to him as he told us how much he liked singing but really wanted to learn the guitar.  He wanted to give up but he just wanted to play a chord.  Until he could play another and another.  He said he would play for weeks in his apartment until he could play the famous riff to the amazing Tracy Chapman song, “Fast Car”. 

When Combs played that riff the stadium, as you might expect,  erupted! “I remember the first time I did it and I didn’t mess it up.  Then all these years later, I put out my own version of Tracy Chapman’s masterpiece. I got to sing it with her onstage at the Grammys this year.  It was one of my favorite moments of my career.  So I would love to hear you guys sing this one with me right now.”

I couldn’t believe how loud the crowd was during “Fast Car”.  They sang every word of that heartbreaking song.  It was my favorite moment of the night and easily one of my favorite concert moments ever.  To hear Luke Combs sing that song in a huge stadium with a huge audience singing the song back to him, in the year or so that the song completely blew up for him was a memory for the ages. I wish the song could have gone on and on.  I felt frozen in the moment and yet it seemed to fly by.  He sounded great.  The audience sounded amazing. Even now I can’t get over how much I loved that highlight.  

The night was not over after “Fast Car”.  Combs turned things up another notch with “She Got the Best of Me”, “Hurricane” and “1, 2 Many”.  Luke Combs finished his main set with “When It Rains It Pours”.  People were dancing and having a blast.  It was clear that they did not want the night to end.  It was fun to look down on the stadium floor and see people line dancing, and country dancing. I even saw some people doing some Western Swing. Rice-Eccles had turned into a Honkey Tonk.  

Combs didn’t take too long to return to the stage. Encores are a funny thing.  If you’ve been to a lot of concerts you expect them to come back. Especially when the biggest song hasn’t been played yet.  But for whatever reason it just doesn’t matter.  The artist returns and we all go nuts.  I did.  The show ended the only way it could.  Luke told the audience “I love everybody.  Until next time!  My name is Luke Combs!” Then the opening chords of “Beer Never Broke My Heart” rang out and the stadium went crazy.  And I mean absolutely wild.

  The chorus was written for a live show.  It was written for singing along to.  And wow did people sing along.  I had to laugh as I looked over and saw little kids screaming “Longneck Ice-Cold Beer Never Broke My Heart!”.  I doubt they have sipped that long neck beer or had their heart broken.  But you wouldn’t know it with the passion they put into singing along.  Every person was pumping their fists and singing.  It was so loud.  It was glorious.  Luke Combs can stop by Utah anytime.  He puts on an incredible show.

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