Cody Johnson packs arena for real country music

todayNovember 18, 2023 5

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The first time Cody Johnson came to Lincoln, he played to a few hundred people at the Bourbon Theatre. 

Five years and three shows later, Johnson sold out Pinnacle Bank Arena, bringing in close to 13,000 people for a night of the Texan’s traditional country.

“I started out playing little bars and honky tonks, I never thought I’d play a show where I’d have to look up to see everybody,” he said, embracing his 17-years later overnight success.

Through the show, Johnson documented his rise from independent artist, through his refusal to take off his cowboy hat for Nashville, his first major label hit “On My Way to You,” and “Human,” the music video he used to introduce himself to his new audience.

The latter songs are full of steel guitar and fiddle, evidence of Johnson’s mission to “help country music sound like country music again.”

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That was also the case with the three songs from Johnson’s just-released album “Leather” that he pulled out midway through the show — the breakup weeper “Watching My Old Flame” and the swinging “Work Boots,” for my money the LP’s best song, and the romantic, fiddle tinged ballad “The Painter.”

He played “The Painter” on last week’s CMA Awards and talked about playing those awards shows as evidence of his success — not so much commercially but in connecting with an audience that embraced him for who he is: a genuine cowboy as heard in the touching autobiographical “Dear Rodeo,” a family man and hard-working musician who had his life changed by his first multiweek No. 1 hit “Til I Am,” which, of course was performed by the Cody Johnson Band and PBA Choir.

Outspoken about his “patriotism,” Johnson endorsed Jason Aldean’s controversial “Try That In A Small Town” before launching into Charlie Daniels defiant “Long Haired Country Boy.”

It says something about Johnson that he can pack the arena at the same level as 2023’s hottest country artists, Zach Bryan and Morgan Wallen.

And it says even more that, after asking those who were seeing him for the first time to raise their hands, he estimated that number at “70 to 80%” of the audience 

That Johnson isn’t on an extensive tour — “You’re getting our fourth to the last show of the year,” Johnson said — was evident in the minimal production of a stage, a couple of video screens and a few trusses of light.

But Johnson didn’t need lasers, fog and a massive set to connect with the crowd. The show was all about the music and the down-to-earth “real country” star that brought it back to Lincoln.

Staind will play Pinnacle Bank Arena on May 5. The multi-platinum rock band, known for its Top 10 hit “It’s Been Awhile” will be joined by its longtime friends Seether.

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Written by: Soft FM Radio Staff

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