Easton Corbin at Reliant Stadium, 3/21/2014

Given Corbin's unapologetically retro sound and plain-spoken lyrics, he's had to fight off certain comparisons ever since his 2010 eponymous debut album kicked off his career with a bang, namely the No. 1 singles "Roll With It" and "A Little More Country Than That." Introducing the latter Friday, he told the crowd that while touring the country meeting the real gatekeepers, country-radio program directors, he kept hearing the same thing: "You kinda sound like someone we've heard before."

So he and the band had some fun with that at contemporary country's expense, teasing the crowd with a little bit of AC/DC's "Back In Black" and a couple of other '80s-rock warhorses (Van Halen, I think) before reaching the payoff: George Strait's "Check Yes Or No." It was all in good fun, but Corbin made his point. Even better, after the band had reached a comfortable cruising speed with "A Lot to Learn About Living," they did all of Alan Jackson's "Where I Come From" and eventually closed out with Brooks & Dunn's "Brand New Man." But it's not just his choice of covers, either. Friday, Corbin seemed both totally comfortable in his role of traditional country's heir apparent and up to the challenge of keeping that kind of music relevant.

To that end, something had to lift him out of playing dancehalls and county fairs and into a position where RodeoHouston would come calling, which was easy enough to grasp as well. Those were the handful of midtempo ballads that dotted the set, chief among them "I Can't Love You Back" and "Are You With Me." It would be easy enough to switch out steel guitar with strings (synthesized or otherwise) on those songs, but better still that no one did. As sung by a charismatic crooner like Corbin, these kinds of songs continue to get heavy radio play -- and probably always will -- because of the way they make female listeners swoon. Simple as that.

After all, it was "Amarillo By Morning" and "You Look So Good In Love" that made George Strait a huge star, not "Unwound" or "80 Proof Bottle of Tear Stopper." And even in 2014, Corbin's way with a good romantic tune seems to bode well for a future in which he may not quite command the share of the country-music market he deserves, but should still be plenty to ensure him a long and fruitful career.

Personal Bias: Well...

The Crowd: Swear to God, it must have been high-school night Friday. Easily half the crowd seemed like they could have walked up straight from the calf scramble earlier in the evening. A lot of them left early -- with no curfew on the table, maybe a lot of them were anxious to get to the carnival.

Overhead In the Crowd: "Venison!"

Random Notebook Dump: How did this guy slip through? Shouldn't he be in the Hideout?


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NRG Stadium

1 NRG Park, Houston, TX

Category: Music

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