Hank Williams, Jr. is more than a musician. Hank Williams, Jr. is an entertainer. His performance Saturday night at Nutter Center in Dayton, Ohio, was one for the ages, featuring his biggest hits and a few new songs to boot. The crowd was revved up from the very beginning thanks to strong opening performances from 38 Special and Jamey Johnson, but Hank took everything up a notch and showed why he deserved top billing.
Performing the songs everyone expected to hear—“All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight,” “A Country Boy Can Survive,” and “Women I’ve Never Had” among them—Hank also riffed on some big hits from other artists, including the Marshall Tucker Band, Ted Nugent, ZZ Top, Jerry Lee Lewis and Run DMC. He played several medleys during his set, and made them work by breaking up the songs with anecdotes from his childhood and performing career.
Hank treated the audience to several new songs, including his most recent single, “Keep The Change,” as well an upcoming duet with Brad Paisley about singing Hank Williams songs, and “Don’t Apologize For America,” which borrows a line from Merle Haggard’s classic, “Fightin’ Side Of Me.” Many singers receive a lukewarm reception to new, unfamiliar material in concert, but the fans in Dayton ate it up. Hank’s new album, Old School New Rules is scheduled for a June release.
During “All My Rowdy Friends Have Settled Down,” the singer lamented how Kris Kristofferson’s acting career keeps him so busy, joked about Willie Nelson “getting high on weed and hanging out at the Taco Bell,” and paid tribute to fallen friends Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash by interjecting “Good Ol’ Boys” and “I Walk The Line” into the performance. The audience sang along to every song they knew, and went wild when he launched into “A Country Boy Can Survive.”
The show concluded with Jamey Johnson coming onstage to perform “Family Tradition” with Hank. From beginning to end, Hank Williams, Jr. put on a fantastic show. If you have the chance to see him in concert, you do not want to miss it. This was simply one of the most entertaining performances I have ever witnessed.
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Jamey Johnson took the stage after 38 Special’s set. The crowd was beginning to fill in more at this point, and Johnson received a great response. Despite being a relative newcomer to country music, Johnson has a strong following among those who enjoyed the genre before it became more commercial. He has a very traditional, no-nonsense style of performing.
In addition to his originals, such as “In Color” and “The Guitar Song,” he played a cover of Lefty Frizzell’s “Long Black Veil,” generating a very positive response from the crowd. Johnson closed out his set with “Give It Away,” a song he had written that George Strait took to #1 in 2006. That performance riled up the crowd, and the stage was set for the headliner.
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Saturday night, Hank Williams Jr. brought his rowdy friends to Wright State University’s Nutter Center in Dayton, Ohio. The first band to take the stage was southern rock legends 38 Special. Opening their set with “Rockin’ Into The Night,” 38 Special rocked for fifty solid minutes, roaring through their biggest hits including “Caught Up In You,” “Wild-Eyed Southern Boys,” and “Hold On Loosely.”
It is a shame that many concertgoers do not make an effort to arrive at the venue for the first act. The crowd was sparse during 38 Special’s performance, but the band played as if every seat was filled. Singer Donnie Van Zant pranced around the stage, all smiles during the set. Van Zant is the middle brother of the Van Zants (original Lynyrd Skynyrd vocalist Ronnie being the oldest, and current Skynyrd singer Johnny the youngest). The camaraderie between him and guitarist/vocalist Don Barnes was evident.
The only drawback to 38 Special’s time on stage was perhaps the lack of time. Due to the short set, the group decided to play a medley of select songs in addition to full renditions of their most popular numbers. While a medley is not necessarily a bad thing, this one seemed forced and did not flow as smoothly as it should have. It may be better to replace this part of the set with two songs in their entirety.
Overall, however, 38 Special did a very good job opening the show. For a band that has been going for nearly forty years, they did not show any signs of slowing down.
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