Scotty McCreery braved Chicago’s snowy winter weather as he made his way to the Rialto Square Theatre in Joliet, IL on Friday (Jan. 17) for the third stop on his headlining Damn Strait Tour.
Fans showed nothing but excitement as they lined up outside of the stunning intimate theater, eager to get to their seats and prepare for the night ahead. The sold-out crowd grabbed their drinks and began to settle in as McCreery’s opener, Catie Offerman, took the stage to kick things off.
Offerman’s wit and Texas charm quickly won over the audience as she showcased some of her original tracks including “’Til I see You Again,” “Get A Dog,” “Don’t Do It In Texas,” and more.
Following a brief intermission, the lights went down over the audience, revealing only a silhouette of McCreery and his guitar after he snuck in from the back curtain. An overwhelming feeling of anticipation soared throughout the entire room as he sang the opening verse to his 2018 fan-favorite, “In Between.” The energy suddenly shifted as the stage lit up and his five-piece band members joined in to speed things up at the top of the chorus.
A roar of applause bounced off the walls as the North Carolina native began his 90-minute set that included a variety of fan-favorites tracks spanning from his 2011 Clear As Day album to his latest project, Same Truck (Deluxe).
At about his fifth song of the night, McCreery took a moment to share the heartwarming story of how he met Gabi, the woman that would go on to become his wife, the mother of his son, and the muse for the majority of his music catalog.
“2022 for me, was probably the best, not probably, it was the best year of my life for many reasons, but to tell you why, I gotta take you all the way back to like 1998,” he shared. “So five years old, walking into kindergarten class, you don’t think that’s gonna be a big part of your life story, but for me, it was. That’s the day that I met my wife.”
“I really wasn’t a believer in love at first sight until kindergarten, I just knew it was right,” he added with a laugh.
The singer/songwriter went on to reveal a few more details about their journey together, including the milestone day that led to them saying, “I Do.” With each step along the way, McCreery compiled his feelings and wrote a song titled “This Is It,” which he sang for Gabi both on the day he proposed and their wedding day.
The story itself was enough to move the audience to tears of joy, but his performance of the slow-tempo melody and authentic lyrics is what brought things to a whole new level on that stage.
Looking back on moments like this serves as a reminder of how far McCreery has come in his life and career. He got his start on American Idol as just a 16-year-old who was on a mission to follow his passion for music. Ever since viewers got that first taste of his talent from hearing his deep voice in the audition room, McCreery has been compared to country music greats like George Strait and Johnny Cash.
Come to find out, George Strait was actually his first concert back in his home state of North Carolina. He explained that after that monumental night, he began to dream of a life where people would fill a venue to see him perform, which is exactly what happened at the Illinois show. Fast forward to the present day, McCreery is fulfilling his dreams and honoring the icon that inspired this path.
“This might be my favorite right here,” McCreery said as he wrapped up the intro to his three-week No. 1 hit, “Damn Strait,” that pays tribute to the King of Country and his collection of signature heartbreak songs.
The remainder of his set included a mix of slow-tempo ballads and boot-stomping anthems that brought a bit of sunshine to the dreary season, including “The Trouble With Girls,” “See You Tonight,” “On It,” and “You Time.”
With almost every song, the crowd gave McCreery a run for his money, as they sang along to the words so loud, it almost made it hard to hear his smooth vocals through the speakers.
While Scotty McCreery’s concert may not have had eccentric tactics like fire shooting out from the stage or confetti filling the two-level venue, he delivered something far better than a trick-filled production. His wholesome nature, idolized love stories and captivating songs was more than enough to make the crowd wish the night would never come to an end.
He went on to perform a total of 15 songs, in addition to his well-rehearsed encore, which started out with a song that inspired two Christmas movies and was certified double platinum by RIAA, “Five More Minutes.”
“I knew on day one when we wrote it, it was something, but it took us three extra days to come back and finally finish this thing up because we wanted it to be perfect,” he shared of the hit song. “Got started in 2011, and for the longest time my biggest goal in country music was to get a No. 1 single on country radio…in 2016 after five, six years of doing this, I wasn’t sure if it was ever going to happen. So we decided to put all our eggs in one basket and throw this song out there. If this song didn’t do it, who knows where we’d be right now.”
Just as things appeared to be wrapping up, McCreery said “If y’all aren’t done yet, we can keep going.” After earning a clear confirmation from the crowd, his band returned to give him a helping hand with an impressive medley of country classics including Randy Travis’ “Forever and Ever, Amen,” Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues,” Alan Jackson’s “Chattahoochee,” John Michael Montgomery’s “Sold (The Grundy County Auction Incident),” and finally, Garth Brooks’ “Ain’t Going Down (‘Til The Sun Comes Up).”
The crowd remained on their feet after a standing ovation and danced in excitement as they sang along to the well-known tracks. Not only did he replicate the country icons with ease, but he also showed his fans a whole new side to his musical abilities as he delivered every note and lyric of the incredibly fast-paced songs.
Before walking off stage for the last time, McCreery looked out into the audience in awe of all the people who have followed his journey thus far, and united under one roof to hear the result of his hard work.
Scotty McCreery is just getting started on his Damn Strait Tour, which is set to wrap on April 30 in Hagerstown, MD. Following this stint of shows, he will join Brooks and Dunn as a special guest on their Reboot 2023 tour, beginning May 4 in Kansas City, MO.