Morgan Wallen Breaks Bridgestone Arena Attendance Record With Free Concert: ‘A Night That I Will Never Forget’

The last-minute show was a way for Wallen to show his gratitude toward his fans.

By

Madeleine O’Connell

| Posted on

March 6, 2023

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Morgan Wallen; Photo by Ryan Smith

On Friday (March 3), 19,292 people gathered together in person to celebrate the release of Morgan Wallen’s brand-new third studio albumOne Thing At A Time

Morgan Wallen - One Thing At A Time Album Art
Morgan Wallen – One Thing At A Time Album Art

Thousands Of Free Tickets Distributed In Hours

Just one day prior, Nashville was hit with the news that Wallen would be hosting a free (yes, free) concert at Bridgestone Arena. Those hoping to snag a seat flocked to the box office as soon as this information was unveiled through Wallen’s socials and joined the thousands of fans willing to stand in a line that wrapped around the building multiple times. In just a few hours, it was announced that every ticket had been distributed, which lead to a record-setting all-time attendance for the arena according to EVP of Entertainment and Venues David Kells.

Additionally, over one million fans around the world tuned in to the live stream of the concert, which was offered on Wallen’s website for those who were not in town for the show or did not claim tickets.  

The reaction to the surprise show was outstanding not only because of the fact that it was free to attend but also because Wallen does not have another Nashville date booked on his upcoming One Night At A Time Tour. The last-minute show was a way for him to say “thank you” to his who have made him a record-breaking superstar in country music. It also offered a unique opportunity for those who didn’t have the chance to buy tickets to his massive headlining trek. 

Those who were able to grab a pair of tickets to the show made their way inside Bridgestone Arena in great anticipation for the night ahead. 

Excitement Filled The Air

As his band settled onto the stage that sat in the center of the venue, the excitement among the audience members intensified. Suddenly, the lights dimmed, and the jumbo screens revealed live footage of Wallen making his way through the underground tunnels of the arena. Before appearing at the entrance, he made sure to stop and hug a few special people including his sister, Ashlyne, his son, Indigo, and his team members. 

Morgan Wallen; Photo by Ryan Smith
Morgan Wallen; Photo by Ryan Smith

Then, the spotlight hit, and fans turned their attention to the man of the hour as he slowly walked toward the stage. With a bright smile on his face, Wallen acknowledged those with a front-row spot on the floor and took in the milestone event unfolding before him. 

The audience erupted in cheers as the singer/songwriter kicked things off with “Born With A Beer In My Hand,” the leading track off his new album.  

Wallen Showed His Appreciation For His Fans

“Man, we’ve been working really hard on this record for probably the last three or four months. I ain’t been doing a lot of sleep and I’ve been doing a lot of singing in the studios, you can probably tell. Probably won’t be doing a lot of sleeping tonight either,” Wallen said with a laugh as he addressed the crowd. “This is something badass, man. This makes me super proud. I know how much my fans mean to me, but I just want to say it out loud, you guys are truly remarkable. Thank you for making this happen on such short notice.”

He then revealed that the night would include a mix of both new and old songs before launching into the title track of his new collection. 

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While Wallen and his band members kept things on a slightly more casual level, they still brought their A-game, which was accompanied by the perfect level of production. Nothing too intense or eccentric, but just enough to let his vocals take the lead and match the feel-good atmosphere. 

Several times throughout the show, Wallen took a moment to share a bit about the song he was about to perform so that his listeners could get a better understanding of the inspiration behind the new tracks. As he sat down with his guitar, he unveiled the story behind his new tune, “Keith Whitley,” and the late singer/songwriter who it was named after. 

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“Keith Whitley is one of my favorite artists of all time is a man that died far too young, and someone that I think had a whole lot more magic left in him, someone I still listen to at least every week. So I wanted to have a song that talked about him and I didn’t know exactly what I wanted it to say, but I knew I wanted it to be a song in relation to him.”

Wallen went on to explain that his cousin, Jared Mullins, came to him with the idea for this narrative and it ended up being exactly what he was looking for. 

“He said, ‘here’s what we came up with,’ and I thought it was perfect. It touched me in just the way that I wanted that song to feel. So, I ended up putting it on this new record and it’s probably one of my favorites. 

Morgan Wallen Album Release Show; Photo by Ryan Smith
Morgan Wallen Album Release Show; Photo by Ryan Smith

Shortly after, he jumped to the final song on the record, “Dying Man,” and revealed how he relates the sentiment of the lyrics to his own life as a father. 

“In ‘Dying Man,’ I’m singing to a woman. In real life, this song is dedicated to my son. He has changed everything for me and has been a real blessing. He’s here tonight, so I’m sending this song out to him,” he shared. 

22-Song Set List

While the Tennessee native didn’t bring all 36 tracks on the album, he did hit a total of 22 songs throughout his one-night-only, stripped-back show. Fans got to experience some brand-new music being played for the first time including “Me + All Your Reasons,” “Dying Man,” “Tennessee Fan,” “Thinkin’ Bout Me,” “Sunrise,” “180 (Lifestyle),” “Whiskey Friends” and more. Additionally, he worked in some fan favorites such as “Chasin’ You,” “Whiskey Glasses,” “Wasted On You,” and his most recent no 1 on country radio titled, “Thought You Should Know.” 

“A lot of these songs…this is the first time we’ve ever played them. So this is like a big glorified rehearsal for us, a real nerve-wracking rehearsal for us,” he said laughing. “We always get a little bit nervous just because we care so much, we want everything to go smooth, we want to perform to the best of our ability. But for the last few years every time I’ve walked out on this stage or any stage in the country world, I’ve just felt so comfortable, and that’s because of you guys. So thank you for allowing us to just be ourselves up here and thank you for making it possible for us to do this. We love y’all.”

In its first day, fans once again proved their loyalty to Wallen. His new project broke records as the most-streamed country album in a single day by a male artist and has been dubbed the largest streaming debut of any Genre in 2023 so far. 

Later on, Wallen also explained that he couldn’t perform in Tennessee without a certain track off his previous Dangerous album titled, “Sand In My Boots.” This moment in the show stuck out as a tear-jerking realization of just how connected the country star is with his fans. 

Wallen’s final two songs of the night left a mark on the audience as he brought things full circle. After playing some of his previous fan favorites, he returned to the album with “Last Night,” which has quickly become yet another viral sensation, and his seventh No. 1, “You Proof.” 

That night, thousands of fans left the arena with some exceptional bragging rights along with a new appreciation for Wallen’s incredibly kind gesture to give back to those who have changed his life.  

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“I know how much my fans mean to me, but I just want to say it out loud. You guys are truly remarkable,” he said. “Thank you for coming out for this free show on such short notice. I hope you’re having as much fun as I am.”

It’s almost impossible to describe the kind of energy that illuminated throughout the audience. Before Wallen even stepped on stage, there was an elevated level of emotions that filled the crowd. Maybe it was the pure passion that exuded from those in attendance, or maybe it was the fact that Wallen has made great strides to get to this point in his incredibly successful career. Either way, it was clear from the beginning that this night was going to be an experience unlike any other. 

Before the night came to a complete close, Wallen shared a final statement with his fans. 

He said, “This was a night that I will never forget. Thank you for doing this for me, for my family, and for my band. I hope y’all enjoy the rest of your weekend…God bless you, we’ll see you out on the road again sometime soon I hope. Thank you so much.”

World Tour Launching Soon

Friday night’s free show was held just days before Wallen is slated to launch his One Night At A Time World Tour, which kicks off overseas on March 15. From there, he will visit a total of 30 stadiums on the 63-show trek before wrapping up in October.  

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Madeleine O’Connell graduated from North Central College with a bachelors degree in Journalism and Broadcast Communications before deciding to pursue her studies further at DePaul University. There, she earned her masters degree in Digital Communication & Media Arts. O’Connell served as a freelance writer for over two years while also interning with the Academy of Country Music, SiriusXM and Circle Media and assisting with Amazon Music’s Country Heat Weekly podcast. In addition to Country Now, she has been published in American Songwriter, Music Mayhem, and Holler.Country. Madeleine O’Connell is a member of the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music.