When this year’s Red Butte Garden Concert Series lineup was announced, one of the names that surprised me was Travis Tritt. Not that I didn’t think he was big enough for Red Butte, because he’s plenty big. He’s a Country music icon. But generally, this isn’t the typical artist that plays Red Butte. I thought maybe he’d show up at Country Fan Fest, or at the State Fair, but sure enough, Travis Tritt brought his tour to Red Butte Garden and it was a night to remember.
Seeing as Tritt is not typically the type of artist who plays Red Butte, the audience was slightly different. Red Butte Garden fans get a reputation for being a “Wine and Cheese” type of crowd. This crowd was definitely not that. This was a grittier and more down-to-earth type of audience. A real country crowd, if you will. I thought it was a breath of fresh air. I liked seeing a different type of audience in that amphitheater.
It was a smokey, and I mean smokey evening. I wondered if the concert was going to happen at all. The huge fires blazing in Northern California and Oregon brought smokey skies to the Salt Lake Valley. It was incredible because the air smelled like a campfire. Red Butte Garden is elevated above the valley, so I think the air was a little better there, but it was hazy for the most part.
The evening began with local artist, Michelle Moonshine. I have been following Michelle on social media for a while now and yet this was my first time getting to see her perform live in person. And what a spot to get to see and hear her. She totally set the tone for the evening. She sounded fantastic whether she was performing original music or the occasional cover song.
I’m not sure how often Michelle has performed in front of an audience this large, but she seemed so natural. She told stories and even dedicated a song to some friends in the audience who were celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary. She and guitarist John Davis deserved the standing ovation they received a the end of their set. I think we’ll be hearing a lot more from Michell Moonshine in the future.
In between sets I like to stop by the merch tent, see what the shirts look like then make my way to the side stage where enter to take photos. While I was at the merch tent I overheard a conversation between a man who looked like a country fan and another younger man who fit more under the “hipster” category. They were talking about music and Travis Tritt and the country guy looks at the hipster and says, “Do you even like Travis Tritt? What are you doing here? You don’t look like a Travis Tritt fan.”
Judging the book by its cover I would have surmised the same thing. The hipster responds with, “Hmm.” I thought to myself that he was going to be exposed as not knowing this music. But then he responds by rattling off several Tritt songs. Songs I frankly had never heard before. It was a good reminder that I shouldn’t judge someone’s musical taste based on the way they look or their age. The older country looking guy was more than impressed.
Travis Tritt took the stage following his band and a recorded intro by famous comedian and noted redneck, Larry the Cable Guy. He opened with “Put Some Drive In Your Country”. The crowd rose to their feet and they never sat back down. My first impression was that Tritt still had his voice. You never know when artists have been around for a while but he sounded great. It was the perfect opener.
Tritt told the audience it was good to be in Salt Lake. He followed that by saying that it was good to be anywhere after the last 18 months. He mentioned that he was mostly happy to see everyone’s beautiful maskless faces. And I have to admit, it was nice to see everyone smiling and singing. It also reminded me that things are still crazy out there and we should still be as careful as possible. He told us that he had a whole bunch of songs for us. Most of them had been around for a long time. He then got the crowd fired up when he said, “I hope you’re here for the same reason. You look like you’re here to party! We’re gonna get high in Utah tonight!”. The crowd roared and we were off!
Travis mixed in a few new songs off of his new album, Set in Stone, but he mostly stuck to his hits. One of the highlights for me was when played his cover of “Take it Easy”, by The Eagles. It reminded me of his video for this song that featured members of The Eagles in it. I believe appearing in this video was one of the reasons they finally got back together in the 90s.
Tritt spoke of how much he admired and appreciated veterans of the United States Military. He talked about what an honor it was for him to be the Celebrity Spokesperson for the DAV (Disabled American Veterans) and to work with the VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars). He asked if there was anyone in the military past or present in the audience. The audience then applauded all those who are serving and have served. The whole audience then began chanting U-S-A ! It was a very patriotic moment.
Travis Tritt really got the crowd going with his hit “Country Club”. He told the audience that we were all certified members of the Travis Tritt Country Club. Everyone seemed to be having such a good time. That’s the thing about country concerts, it’s almost impossible not to have a good time. There was great a sense of fun in the air.
And of course, Tritt’s fans were ecstatic to hear “It’s a Great Day to Be Alive”. It felt like from the first cord they knew what the song was and they were so happy to be hearing it. I noticed people linking arms, toasting their Bud Lights, and singing out this huge Country Music hit for Tritt.
Tritt mentioned that this last year was hard for so many reasons but one of them was having lost so many people in music. Travis paid tribute to the great Charlie Daniels and shared that Daniels took Travis under his wing and gave him the best advice. He shared that he still thinks about him every day. Tritt then covered “Long Haired Country Boy”
My favorite part of the entire evening was when Travis Tritt did a tribute to his friend Waylon Jennings who passed away in 2002. He came out in a hat similar to one Jennings wore. Who knows it could have been one of Waylon Jennings’ hats. Anyway, he proceeded to play “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys”. He started singing in Jennings’ voice and then transitioned to Willie Nelson’s voice. I was extremely impressed! He sounded so much like them. The crowd got a big kick out of this.
The night ended with another massive hit for Travis, “T-R-O-U-B-L-E”. Again the audience knew what song this was the second they heard the first note of the song. Whatever energy they had left they seemed hell-bent to get it all out before the end of the song. People were dancing and clapping so hard. When Tritt finished the song he threw picks and towels out into the crowd. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him at Red Butte in future summers.
Photos and Review By: Kevin Rolfe