Dan + Shay Prove They’re at Head of the Class During Ryman Auditorium Show
Dan + Shay did one thing during an electric 75-minute set at the Ryman Auditorium that too many artists new and old don't do. They obeyed one simple rule.
Never let the music stop.
Aside from a transition to the soft middle of their set, and a break for an encore, the ACM Vocal Duo of the Year nominees never left space between songs. All crowd interaction — and there was plenty on Tuesday night (Feb. 21) — came during instrumental introductions, or during the short gaps between verse and chorus. Dan Smyers and Shay Mooney have figured out an important truth about the concert experience: if fans want to know what inspired a song, who wrote a song, or the particulars about how the headliners got to that stage in life and career, they'll search for it on Taste of Country afterward. "From the Ground Up" has a great story, but the song is better served in a vacuum, and maybe once again during a massive crowd sing-along to help close the set.
"All Nighter," an up-tempo track from Obsessed that could (and should) become the country rock single their catalog is desperately missing, opened the show. Mooney is the lead vocalist and hype man, while Smyers plays the more reserved — but far from quiet — sideman. Their relationship is not unlike Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley's from Florida Georgia Line, and their stage show is on track to match.
"Nothin' Like You" rolled into the clever if slightly cheesy "Stop, Drop + Roll." A perfect cover of Bon Jovi's "You Give Love a Bad Name" added rocket fuel to the duo's momentum. Finally, after nearly 25 minutes everyone took a well-deserved breath. This stop on the Obsessed Tour is not one you expect from a New Artist of the Year nominee. The duo have superstar potential.
Both Smyers and Mooney are recently engaged, and Smyers shared that his newborn baby was watching backstage. "Pray for You" was a meaningful tribute to Asher James, and after "From the Ground Up" the tempo began to build once again. Their cover of the Smyers co-written "I Like the Sound of That" (Rascal Flatts) left one wondering "What if?" A cover of the Killers "Mr. Brightside" proved the longtime friends may be best at selecting cover songs. They could have dropped the mic as they walked offstage and few would have rolled their eyes.
The title track from their most recent album started an acoustic encore that led into some serious bro-love between the two talented performers. Mooney got a chance to show off his impressive range during an impromptu freelance that could have been better if he'd prepared a short medley. But it was indeed impromptu, and this is important. Not a single moment felt forced, contrived or even scripted. This subtlety takes years to master, especially when production and arrangements demand a tightly-scripted show.
Those who only know Dan + Shay from their radio hits may struggle to believe their live show is as good as or better than the other four Vocal Duo of the Year nominees, a group that is stacked with great live performers. Their sweet, sensitive love songs may fuel their young career at this point, but it's this commitment to their fans' concert experience that will ensure it's a long, long ride.
"Own It" singer Bailey Bryan opened the show and was charming during a more verbose, 30-minute set. A cover of a Drake song that bled into her own "After All" highlighted the set. Bryan closed with "Own It," a theme song of sorts for a 19-year-old that enthusiastically wraps her arms around not having all of life's details figured out.
Country Tours Hitting the Road in 2017