The crowd whistled and hollered when country star Hank Williams Jr. appeared on stage at the Intrust Bank Arena on Saturday night. The more than 10,000 concertgoers jumped out of their seats as Williams dug into classics from his 54-year career.
The son of legendary superstar Hank Williams, who died when his son was 3, Hank Williams Jr. had music-making in his blood. He began performing at age 8 and was touring a year later.
After successful stops of the “Taking Back the Country Tour” in Florida, Mississippi, West Virginia and Ohio, Williams headed over to his birth state – Louisiana – on Friday night before coming to Kansas.
It has been more than two decades since this platinum-album winner came to Wichita, and on Saturday night the crowd let him know that he was always welcome in the Air Capital.
Williams, wearing all black, performed “Family Tradition” and “A Country Boy Can Survive” to an enthusiastic audience. But what sent the crowd roaring was when he played his fiddle, waving the bow across the strings and singing “Kaw-Liga.”
One couldn’t miss Williams’ good humor and Southern hospitality. Williams won the entertainer of the year award from both the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music. His Wichita performance proved that this multi-talented, Grammy-winning entertainer received those awards for a reason.
The audience of mostly 20-something to 50-something-year-olds roared when Williams sat down at the piano and started reminiscing about his dad and Elvis and sang a bit of “Your Cheatin’ Heart.” Later in the set he sang in front of a picture of his dad. He also performed some tunes from his upcoming album “Old School New Rules,” which will be released late next month.
But before his next album is released, Williams will celebrate his 63rd birthday. His charismatic personality and youthful demeanor make it seem like he has a couple of decades of entertaining in him.
“I’m just a-laid up here in a Wichita state of mind,” Williams said as the crowd cheered. His raspy vocals and relaxed manner connected with the crowd as he threw in references to nearby locales.
Williams’ opening act, Jamey Johnson, revved up the crowd with “In Color,” “High Cost of Living” and “Turn the Page.” This singer-songwriter comes from Alabama, the birthplace of Hank Williams Sr. Johnson, a Grammy-award nominee, toured with Williams on the “All My Rowdy Friends” tour in 2010.
But the crowd was at the arena for Williams. They couldn’t get enough of him – his lyrics, his hat changes, his dynamic personality and his wonderful guitar, fiddle and piano playing.