Mark Chesnutt, Craig Morgan, Miranda Lambert - Country Thunder - 4/12/14
Andrew Pielage Craig Morgan performs at Country Thunder.
Mark Chesnutt, Craig Morgan, Miranda Lambert
Country Thunder 2014
By day three of Country Thunder, most attendees are in one of two states: You're either cripplingly hungover and sunburnt, acting as brothers in spirit with those souls at Coachella, or you've been saving yourself for the biggest two days of the festival so far. With headliner Miranda Lambert and main stage acts Mark Chesnutt and Craig Morgan, Saturday proved to be the biggest and best day yet with some 26,000 attendees throughout the day. Like any other year at the festival, there's a lot of tan skin, catcalling and Bud Light. From the furthest reaches of the campgrounds -- I should know, I seemed to walk them all over the course of the day -- to the main stage itself, day three also seemed to have everyone in good spirits. Country music just has an ability to take most cares away, as evidenced by this year's revelers.
Mark Chesnutt is a legend and was arguably the most traditional country act of the day, playing the music that most country fans today grew up on and took the stage as the sun sank in the sky. There's more bite and less pop to Chesnutt's 23 years of work, more classic country progressions and pedal steel than music of today, and though the crowd was less than enthusiastic at points, most will tell you that he helped pave the way for crossover artists. Ironically, he's only a year older than fellow Country Thunder performer Craig Morgan, but Chesnutt has had charting country singles since 1990 -- 13 years prior to Morgan and during the time when the country that came before it helped to create a sound that was accessible yet could please purists of that day and age.
Morgan, as much a goof onstage as he is in interviews, is one of those guys that can work a stage on a number of levels, incorporating humor, heartfelt tributes to our troops and a Full Monty-esque presentation for a couple lucky ladies, all in the same show. Popping out of a smoke-filled stage riser to "International Harvester," Morgan bounced from one end of the stage to the other, proving that those vocal chops we're all so familiar with are just as present in real life.
"Party Girl," one of those anthems that seems written just for the crowd at Country Thunder, brought one of the lighter moments of the set as Morgan pulled a few female VIP festival-goers onstage to sing and dance just for them, much to the delight of the rest of the female audience. I'll give him this -- dude can move his hips much, much better than one would expect from a guy who's 50 years old and has been at this for almost 15 years.
Prior to "Redneck Yacht Club," a song everyone in the crowd seemed to know, Morgan busted out a cover of Eagles' "Life In The Fast Lane," a song that actually adapts better to country tastes much better than you would think. Morgan's got a perfect recreation of the Don Henley sound, albeit with a country twang, proving that old dogs do have some new tricks -- the tricks might just be a little classic themselves.