Hunter Hayes at Reliant Stadium, 03/15/2014
According to Billboard, in a little less than two months Hunter Hayes will attempt to break the Guinness world record for most concerts played within a 24-hour period. On May 9 and 10, he will play one gig about every three hours on a ten-city itinerary going from Good Morning America to a 5 a.m. show the next morning at Philadelphia's Trocadero.
Photos courtesy of Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo That's Hunter Hayes on the right
If Hayes shows up with even half the energy he had at his RodeoHouston debut Saturday, playing before an impressive crowd of 73,768 people, he should break the record easily and have enough energy left over for a brunch gig in Atlantic City. The 23-year-old entertainer came on like a walking can of Red Bull, even breaking Jake Owen's unofficial rodeo record for earliest time heading into the crowd -- Hayes wasn't even done with his opener, "Wild Card" before he was running across the dirt.
He had good reason to be beside himself. Hayes grew up not terribly far from Houston in Breaux Bridge, La., and sounded both awestruck and humbled when he told the crowd, "this has been our dream for a long time."
Hayes, who won the CMA's Best New Artist award in 2012, started his career at age five and is said to play as many as thirtysomething instruments at this point. (That's what flashed on the Reliant scoreboard, anyway.) He mostly stuck to guitar Saturday, with a sprinkling of piano on 2012 No. 1 hit "Wanted," but acquitted himself so well on that instrument he could probably hold his own with the previous night's entertainer, Keith Urban. In fact, Urban is one of the "heroes" Hayes mentioned from the stage, and the Australian's influence was particularly strong on "Love Made Me" and "I Want Crazy" -- loping country-rockers roomy enough for Hayes to flash some real six-string fireworks.
All ten songs in Hayes' set Saturday were beyond poppy; the most country moment of the whole show may have been the two-step pulse of "Wild Card" that seemed to hint at his Cajun roots. He and his band worked up good heads of (tattoo-free) arena-rock bluster on both "More Than I Should" and "Light Me Up," and his Jason Mraz collaboration, "Everybody's Got Somebody But Me," was so Gulf-breezy it called out for a drink with an umbrella in it. And the way the everyone turned on their phone lights during "Wanted" and "Invisible" creating a lovely firefly effect in the stadium, would have melted even the stingiest cynic's heart. The screams during "I Want Crazy" were loud enough to penetrate the press-box glass, so you know the crowd ate it up like the cotton candy it was.
Unfortunately, Hayes has a bit of a tin ear when it comes to lyrics; all too often, his lines that don't feel cliched just feel awkward. Here's just one example from "Storm Warning," one of his early hits from all the way back in 2011, goes like this: "Ain't it funny how it feels when you're burnin' your wheels/ Somewhere between goin' and gone." Not awful, maybe, but that line could be in a thousand other country songs, and probably has been. Fine melody, toe-tapping tune, but a lyrical misfire -- a pattern that repeated a number of times Saturday.
Review continues on the next page.