The first words out of Hunter Hayes mouth Wednesday night at the Rodeo may have been Houston, but what came out loud and clear was another word: America. The evening, which was deemed Armed Services Appreciation Day started with Air Force Pararescuemen rappelling down with the American flag in front of the 61,306 in attendance. No matter what kind of performance Hayes put on for the crowd, there was no way he'd ever top that applause.
The love and admiration for America are a tough act to follow — something Hayes quickly learned, but genuinely embraced.
The 23-year-old starts off by dedicating every song to the military. "Every song's for you tonight," he says, tapping into the fan's cheers.
Rocking black skinny jeans and a simple white T-shirt, Hayes had a bit of a James Dean look going, and it's no wonder as he mentions James Dean in his "Storyline" lyrics ("A James Dean spirit and a Norma Jean heart"). A musician to the umpteenth degree, Hayes showed fans that he is indeed a multi-instrumentalist, taking time to showcase his stellar electric guitar skills. That's a neat coupling to being one hell of a piano man.
Rocking black skinny jeans and a simple white T-shirt, Hayes had a bit of a James Dean look going.
Between songs the same guy who recently snagged the People's Choice Award for Favorite Country Artist reminisced about a time not long ago when he was bragging to his friends that "Someday we'll be on the big stage at the Houston Rodeo."
Look at him now.
"It's not lost on us how big of a privilege it is to be invited for the second year in a row," Hayes says of his Rodeo repeat.
Wanting the crowd to take full advantage of being out on a school night, Hayes tells fans, "If you can dance, dance. This is all about you. Whatever makes you different makes you awesome."
If there's anyone that can take the stage and be grateful for all he's got and worked so hard for, it's the guy who started his career as an opening act for country superstars Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood. Now, here he is in all his glory on the grand Houston Rodeo rotating stage that few get the honor of performing on.
As the band belts out the popular "Everybody's Got Somebody But Me," it's clear the Louisiana native is not alone. He ends the hit giving a little love to every genre hitting some jazz notes, a little bit of blues and even some hardcore rock and roll. He even gives fans on the dirt a chance to sing (turns out five words are harder to remember than you'd think) and of course . . . a few selfies.
After all, what's the Rodeo without a few selfies?
"Thank you is not enough. It's never enough," Hayes says to the military one last time as he ends the show before hopping into the F-150 waiting to take him out of sight.
The crowd filters out earlier than normal thanks in part to the massive drop in temperatures and chilling rain, which doesn't go unnoticed by the award-winning singer, nor does it seem to bother him. "Thank you to those of you who stayed to listen to us play," Hayes says in his most genuine voice. Proof in the pudding, this is a small-town guy living a big-town life.
Hayes put on an entertaining show, but one thing's clear. No one can top America.
Hunter Hayes' Rodeo Set List:
Everybody's Got Somebody
Love Makes Me