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3rd Annual Stars and Strings Tribute

Chris Young kicked off the summer concert season at Pinnacle Bank Arena on Saturday night.

Associated Press file photo

In 2017, Chris Young was on tour as the primary support for Jason Aldean with Kane Brown on the stage immediately before Young.

In 2018, Young and Brown have each climbed up a rung on the country touring ladder, with Young stepping into the headlining slot and Brown his main support.

Brown has been one of the hottest brands going in country since last fall, when he was the first artist ever to simultaneously top all five Billboard country charts with the album and single “What Ifs.”

The deep-voiced Georgian, who’s got the number one song at country radio in “Heaven," likely added to the crowd of 10,500 to Pinnacle Bank Arena on Saturday.

His No. 1s capped a 45-minute set that instructively included a medley of covers of his middle-school favorites — “Billionaire, “Miss Jackson” and “Over My Head” — none a country song.

That’s an insight into Brown’s R&B-tinged country, which connected on ballads “Location,” and the piano-rich “What’s Mine Is Yours” and numbers such as the slippery “Pull It Off.”

The highlight of Brown’s set, however, was the autobiographical rapped/sung “Learning,” about recovering from childhood abuse.

Young opened his 80-minute set with “Losing Sleep,” the song that gives the tour its title, then kicked into the gently rocking “Gettin’ You Home (The Black Dress Song),” his first number one, in a cascade of hits and the first of the singalongs.

A pop culture rarity — a TV singing competition winner ("Nashville Star," 2006) who became a star — Young truly is a fine singer with honeyed Tennessee baritone, which, not shockingly, really worked on power ballads like “Who I Am With You” and the swaying “You,” complete with the secret wobbly high note.

There were plenty of drinking songs, and one “Sober Saturday Night” along a beautiful acoustic guitar/electric guitar/vocals cover of Keith Whitley’s “Don’t Close Your Eyes” — evidence that Young’s a true country singer.

Young is also an engaging performer with a little story or a quip to introduce most songs and joking with the “drunk people” in the crowd.

Saturday’s concert was also something of a snapshot of contemporary country, with Grand Ole Opry member Young bringing the neo-traditional slant, complete with steel guitar from the great Terry Crisp, Brown landing on the Florida Georgia Line “bro country” side of things.

Carrying the pop end of country was Australian newcomer Morgan Evans, who opened the night standing at the edge of the stage and delivering an engaging 30-minute set a la Ed Sheeran, using loop pedals to build a song, then singing and, impressively throwing in some fluid leads.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7244 or kwolgamott@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSWolgamott.

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Entertainment reporter/columnist

L. Kent Wolgamott is an entertainment reporter and columnist.

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