Thomas Rhett Was The ‘Star Of The Show’ At Chicago’s United Center

It was a full-circle moment for Rhett, who began his career playing in the Windy City.


Madeleine O’Connell

| Posted on

August 2, 2023


1:14 pm

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Thomas Rhett; Photo by Grayson Gregory

Thomas Rhett made his triumphant return to Chicago, IL, a city that holds great significance for his early career, on Friday, July, 28 when his Home Team 23 Tour stopped at the United Center.

Rhett first got the chance to play the home of the Chicago Bulls and Chicago Blackhawks back in 2019. At the time, this milestone performance was a big jump from Joe’s on Weed St., a small concert venue and bar that’s considered to be a Chicago staple. In the midst of his most recent appearance in the arena, Rhett explained that Joe’s Bar was one of the first venues to offer him the chance to showcase his music on stage when he was just 19 years old. 

“I wish I could explain to you the love that I have for this city, but it would take me all night. So I’ll just begin with, I have so much history in this town. This was like the very first place that I ever played a concert at Joe’s on Weed St.,” he shared. “I played there when I was like 19, man. We were talking about it tonight, I never in a million years would have dreamed that we’d sell out the dadgum United Center. Thank you guys so much for hanging out with us tonight.”

The arena, which holds a capacity of approximately 23,000 fans welcomed Thomas Rhett to a sold-out crowd that was in for a night of upbeat jams, love-filled ballads, and a country artist who has a true appreciation for his fanbase. 

Before Thomas Rhett made his way to the stage, special guests Nate Smith and Cole Swindell warmed up the crowd with a collection of their own fan-favorite tracks. 

Smith was the first to welcome excited fans with his high-energy performances of tracks straight from his debut album. In between the music, Smith made sure to express his heartfelt appreciation for the chance to live out his musical dreams in front of such a strong community of country music lovers. 

The most memorable part of the “Wreckage” singer’s set came when he announced that a couple would be joining him on stage to throw out some free merch. The crowd’s excitement intensified when they realized that it was actually a surprise proposal taking place. The man got down on one knee and popped the question just before Smith delivered his first country airplay No. 1, “Whiskey On You.” After hearing a “yes” from the happy couple, the country singer/songwriter celebrated alongside them before finishing out the viral track.  

Next up was Cole Swindell who truly got the party started for his debut at the United Center. The crowd sang along to every word as Swindell proved his star status with “Love You Too Late,” “Single Saturday Night,” “Stereotype,” the multi-award-winning tune, “She Had Me at Heads Carolina,” and more. 

At 9:30 pm on the dot, smoke filled the stage, prompting fans’ screams to grow louder as they prepared for the moment they’d been waiting for all night. After a few seconds, Thomas Rhett finally arose from the ground sporting a custom Chicago bomber jacket while he played the drums. This epic solo alone set the tone for the rest of the 90-minute set. 

After giving away the drumsticks and his jacket to a few lucky fans, Thomas Rhett kicked things into high gear with his energizing party anthem, “Vacation.” He continued with a career-spanning setlist that featured tracks from each of his six studio albums. The first leg of the show included songs like “Look What God Gave Her,” “Half of Me,” “Crash and Burn” “Life Changes,” “Slow Down Summer,” “Sixteen” and “Marry Me.”

Rhett then surprised the audience with a medley of songs dug from the depths of his catalog that particularly appealed to his OG listeners. He began with an acoustic delivery of “Notice” before going into “It Goes Like That,” “Get Me Some Of That” and “Star Of The Show.” In addition, Nate Smith returned to the stage to help sing the collaborative tune, “Beer Can’t Fix,” which Rhett originally recorded with Jon Pardi for his 2019 album, Center Point Road.

After getting the whole arena to help him sing happy birthday to an 18-year-old fan sitting right beside the stage, the run of throwback songs returned in a whole new way. Instead of sharing a further glimpse into his early catalog, Rhett slotted out six minutes to bring the audience back in time with a handful of iconic songs that each represent a different decade.  

Rhett sought out a fan from the audience who was born in the correlating decade before delivering his rendition of classic tunes. Starting in the 50s, he traveled through a total of six decades with songs like Elvis Presley’s “Hound Dog,” James Brown’s “I Got You (I Feel Good),” The Rolling Stones, “Beast Of Burden,” Rick Springfield’s “Jessie’s Girl,” Matchbox Twenty’s “3AM” and Walk The Moon’s “Shut Up And Dance.”

He then introduced “The Middle” by Jimmy Eat World by sharing a brief story that showcased how timeless this song is for him.

“The year is 2004. I’ll never forget, I was in eighth grade and I had my little Sony Walkman, if anybody knows what that is. We used to listen to these things called CDs back in the day, I know it’s crazy,” Rhett joked. “My grandmother took me to New York and I went to a record store. I bought a CD by this band called Jimmy Eat World and this is the first song that I heard.”

To wrap up this portion of the show, the Tennessee-raised singer/songwriter brought things full circle as he ended with his top charting hit of 2016, “Die A Happy Man.”

With each song, Rhett continuously danced his way from one end of the stage to another, making sure every section of the arena felt connected to his performance. The country star’s vocals were just one of the many highlights that made for an unforgettable concert experience. 

Alongside his talented voice, the show was elevated with an exceptional light show that matched each song, a bright display of pyrotechnics that sounded off at the perfect time, and sentimental footage to help illustrate the narratives inspired by Rhett’s life at home with his wife, Lauren and their four daughters.  

The concert ended in a celebratory blast from the confetti canon that signaled Rhett’s final song of the night would be his fan-favorite, “T-Shirt.”

Home Team 23 Tour Continues

Produced by Live Nation, Presented by Dos Primos Tequila and Fueled by Marathon, Thomas Rhett’s Home Team Tour kicked off on May 4 in Des Moines, IA at Wells Fargo Arena. The 40-city trek continues through September 29, where the tour will wrap up at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, TN.

His next scheduled Home Team Tour date will take place at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, TX on August 3. 

For additional information and a full list of Thomas Rhett’s upcoming tour dates, visit his official website HERE.

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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.