Music News & Reviews

Middle age is working for party guy Luke Bryan

Luke Bryan was last at Intrust Bank Arena in September 2013.
Luke Bryan was last at Intrust Bank Arena in September 2013. File photo

Luke Bryan’s concerts are a party. That should come as no surprise considering his singles that have hit the top of the country charts: “Drink a Beer,” “I Don’t Want This Night to End” and “Drunk On You.”

Much of Bryan’s feel-good canon is reminiscent of the classic Spinal Tap line “Have a Good Time All the Time,” which was uttered by keyboardist Viv Savage.

The charismatic Bryan, who will perform Friday at Intrust Bank Arena, has made a name for himself with the celebratory, irreverent and hedonistic contemporary country he has delivered.

But Bryan, 39, apparently is growing up a bit. “Kill the Lights,” his fifth album, which dropped in October, reveals a maturing recording artist. The songs, in particular “Home Alone Tonight” — a duet with Little Big Town’s Karen Fairchild — and “Kick the Dust Up,” are upbeat, but some of the tunes are a bit more thoughtful. Middle age is working for Bryan. No matter what he touches, it turns to gold.

Bryan has sold more than 7 million albums and packs amphitheaters and arenas throughout the country whenever he tours. He has sold out Madison Square Garden twice and Chicago’s Soldier Field.

“There really is nobody else like him,” Lady Antebellum’s Charles Kelley said. “He’s a great writer and performer and a great guy.”

Kelly and his Lady Antebellum bandmate Dave Haywood wrote the catchy single “Do I,” which peaked at number two on the Hot Country Songs chart in 2009.

“I love what I do,” Bryan said. “I love to write. I love music, all kinds of music.”

No wonder Bryan seemed so at home while sharing a stage with classic rockers the Doobie Brothers on a 2011 episode of CMT’s “Crossroads.” Bryan also will appear on “Crossroads” this summer with hip-hop artist Jason Derulo.

“I was exposed to so much when I was growing up in Georgia,” Bryan said. “ I’ve always loved country, but I had friends who listened to rap and friends who loved rock. I remember my friends from back then who loved Pearl Jam. All kinds of music have inspired me. I grew up loving country, but I still played the Beastie Boys and Run D.M.C. I don’t get people that are only into one genre. I’ve always believed that a good song is a good song. There’s nothing like a catchy song regardless of the genre.”

Big hook-laden songs are a big reason why the laid-back baritone is one of the most successful recording artists in country. “I put a lot of work into this,” Bryan said. “But it’s a labor of love. I’m so thankful I get to do what I do.”

Even though Bryan has dominated country radio for a half-decade and experienced ridiculous success, he’s had to deal with tremendous sadness. When he was 19, his older brother died in a car accident. In 2007 his sister passed away; no cause of death was named. Her husband died in 2014.

“Nobody gets through life without dealing with pain,” Bryan said. “That’s just the way it is. You just have to keep on living.”

And fans who live through Bryan’s songs embrace the good times. There’s nothing wrong with rousing, rollicking songs, especially when those songs are well-crafted, like much of the Bryan catalog.

“I just try to do my best and I also try to have fun,” Bryan said. “I can think of a lot tougher ways to make a living.”

Luke Bryan

When: Show time is 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 13

Where: Intrust Bank Arena, 500 E. Waterman

Tickets: $74.75, available at selectaseat.com or the Intrust box office

Information: 316-440-9000; www.intrustbankarena.com

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