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A cooler Johnny Drama: Gary Allan brings intensity, fun and crazy looks to all-out Rodeo show

Gary Allan rodeo
Gary Allan was more than a little into his Houston Rodeo show. Photo by © Michelle Watson/
Gary Allan rodeo jacket
Even Gary Allan's jacket was conversation worthy. Photo by © Michelle Watson/
Gary Allan rodeo singing
Gary Allan rocked the Rodeo. Photo by © Michelle Watson/
Gary Allan rodeo
Gary Allan rodeo jacket
Gary Allan rodeo singing

The sound was off in the press box.

Earlier in the evening, I had wandered around Reliant Stadium, taking in the sights and the sounds of a typical Tuesday night at Rodeo Houston.

I sat in the action seats getting an up close and personal view of bull riding while chatting about the pageantry and tradition of the month long event with a friendly gate keeper. I enjoyed a funnel cake at the carnival while watching the colorful rides go up and down. I high-fived a brightly colored rodeo clown who was there entertaining a large group from Texas Children's Hospital.

But when I got up to the press box to prep for Gary Allan's third Rodeo Houston appearance, I was worried that I wouldn't be able to hear him from the vantage point.

 Allan's music is everything that is right with modern country music. 

Still, I stayed there, typing some of this piece while watching the hilarious conclusion of Tuesday night's round of Mutton Bustin' through the box's thick windows.

Watching the rodeo without the benefit of the PA system is an experience that few have. All of that noise, that glitter, that razzle dazzle of Rodeo Houston shrinks when the sound is off, and in that silence and from that height, the event becomes truly grand.

Luckily, the sound turned on just in time to hear the intro to Allan's set, and boy what a set it was. Allan's music is everything that is right with modern country music. From the first few notes of "Airplanes" all the way through "Right Where I Need To Be," the show's closer, anyone in the building could tell that he loves what he is doing.

Not only that, but his band brought enough energy and crunch for a room full of Gary Allans. The crowd of 48,405 was on its feet for much of the set and I could hear plenty of cheers through those thick press box windows.

In fact, the band's chemistry was such that, had that sound never been turned back on, I could have easily imagined how great they sounded together based solely on their expressive body language as they played on.

What more could you ask for from a performer on a Tuesday night at the Rodeo?

How about a fiddle player wearing rainbow colored lightning pants? Or a guitar player in a kilt? That'll give those fans something to talk about around the water coolers on Wednesday morning, right? I'm happy to report that Allan's band accommodated each of these requirements and more.

Highlight of the show: Watching a woman in section 113 direct her entire section to shake their asses during "Bones," and noticing that they seldom let up for the rest of the show.

Fun Gary Allan fact: I had one of those genuine "I never knew that he recorded that song" moments during "Best I Ever Had," written by Matt Scannell of Vertical Horizon. The song has one of the most beautiful melodies I've ever heard in modern rock music, and I was pleased to hear it performed well live. 

Entourage Look-alike: I know I'm not the only one in the room that thought that Allan looked exactly like Johnny Drama, the lovable doofus played by Kevin Dillon in the HBO series Entourage. A much cooler Johnny Drama, to be sure, but the comparison was uncanny on Tuesday night.

Big Winner: Props to the camera man working the LCD screen Tuesday night for capturing the entire band in equal measure. Kilts, colorful pants and frizzy hair tell a story about this band that the music doesn't. And there was a great shot of Allan's shadow in the dirt during one of the slower ballads.

Great Houstonians: The PA announcer thanked everyone for behaving themselves on Monday night after the wind closure and implored the guests to enjoy the calm and clear weather at the carnival on Tuesday evening.

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