Luke Bryan Closes Rodeo With Superstar Swagger

Photos courtesy of Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo
Luke Bryan
NRG Stadium
March 22, 2K15

Luke Bryan is an unlikely sex symbol.

Yes, he's a good-looking guy and he has a good voice and he writes songs that make girls in boots swoon and he has something that resembles the ability to dance, but the fact that he's so popular and so scream-worthy is just odd.

This is a guy who is making Drake money without any of the crossover appeal. A lot of people who listen to modern country music know who Drake is; I'm not sure the average modern hip-hop fan could pick Luke Bryan out of a lineup.

But he's managed to convert his big hooks and dad charm into an extremely successful career, one that leads to 75,000-plus (just barely) packing a stadium in hopes of hearing some good songs and to see him shake his thing. And they got that, and a little more.

Would you believe me if I told you the most superstar-worthy moment of the 2015 Houston rodeo happened during this show?

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It's Rodeo Business as Usual For Brad Paisley

Photos courtesy of Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo
Brad Paisley
NRG Stadium
March 21, 2015

Saturday was one of those days where, when you looked outside, you might have thought it was never going to stop raining. Life doesn't stop on account of dreary weather, however, and so the rodeo rolled on.

Practically speaking, it meant the halls of NRG Center were packed in a way you don't see very often during the rodeo. Sure, folks pop in to check out the baby animals and maybe test out those fancy massage chairs, but compared to the carnival and the rodeo proper it doesn't quite conjure up the same sense of excitement.

But there people were, huddled up in circles, eating and messing about on their phones, killing time until the stadium opened.

Brad Paisley was in town, and you don't let a little rain keep you from missing him.

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Blake Shelton Shores Up Status as Rodeo Royalty

Photos courtesy of Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo
Blake Shelton
NRG Stadium
March 19, 2015

It didn't take long for Blake Shelton and his band to slow it down Thursday night, much to the delight of the ladies in the crowd. During his fifth RodeoHouston performance, before serenading the fairer sex, the Oklahoma native had a few words of encouragement for the gentlemen in attendance.

"I'm sure there's other things a lot of you dudes would rather have been doing tonight than sitting in here listening to me sing," he said. "But I want you to know that you did it for the right reasons: you did it because she wanted you to come out here."

The crowd then erupted with cheers and applause as the band launched into "Doin' What She Likes," an ode to the women in our lives who coax us into doing things against our will, only for us to inevitably end up enjoying them.

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Florida Georgia Line's Rodeo Pizzazz Trumps Clichéd Music

Photos courtesy of Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo
Florida Georgia Line
NRG Stadium
March 18, 2015

"There's only one time a year when we get to play in front of 75,000 people," said vocalist Tyler Hubbard 15 minutes into Florida Georgia Line's performance Wednesday night at RodeoHouston.

"And we didn't come all this way not to make a toast to all these amazing people," added Brian Kelley, the modern-pompadoured second half of the chart-topping bro-country duo. "It's an honor."

The two singers then raised a bottle of Fireball toward the crowd, alternating swigs from the whiskey du jour before launching into the final chorus of "Round Here" as fans chanted along in unison.

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Go Tejano Day 2015 Is Another Rodeo Record-Breaker

photos by Marco Torres
La Arrolladora Banda El Limón @ RodeoHouston, March 15th 2015.
Go Tejano Day
Feat. La Maquinaria Norteña, La Arrolladora Banda El Limón
NRG Stadium
March 15th, 2015

Go Tejano Day at RodeoHouston will always hold a special place in my heart. Growing up, my mom would always save just enough money to buy us tickets to the rodeo every year for this day. I was present at those famous performances by Selena in the early '90 and have seen the shift happen from Tejano to Norteño to Banda, and have had countless discussions about the life and death of Tejano music.

The important thing to realize is that Go Tejano Day is not specific to Tejano music; the real purpose is the celebration of vaqueros and the Texan way of life for those of Mexican-American descent. As long as we can all come together and celebrate as a family and a culture, the music itself should remain secondary.

Which is why I make it a point to keep an open mind and support Go Tejano Day. And every year, the rewards I see and feel from attending is far greater than the regret of not hearing Tejano music at RodeoHouston.

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Rodeo Goes Worldwide With Pitbull in Charge

photos by Marco Torres
Rapper/pop star Pitbull knows how to get a crowd to make some noise.
NRG Stadium
March 13, 2015

"All my white people make some noise!" -- scattered applause)
"All my black folks make some noise!" -- somewhat louder)
"LA-TI-NOS!!!" -- earth-shaking eruption of cheers that could surely be heard all the way to Miami)

If there's one thing Pitbull knows, it is how to warm up a crowd. With his sly grin and gyrating hips, the Latino megastar has come a long way from the rough and raunchy rapper from Miami that he used to be. Now, with his long list of chart-toppers, endorsements and features, he has truly evolved to become Mr. Worldwide.

Just like every Latino kid, the story of an underdog with a dream is deep at the heart of his development. Sure, the poetry of José Martí may have played a part, as well as the music of fellow Cubanos Celia Cruz and Willie Chirino, but his mentor of choice will always be a certain (fictional) character named Antonio Raimundo "Tony" Montana.

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Zac Brown Band Chicken-Fries Up Rodeo Fun

Photos by Marco Torres
Lookin' sharp, Zac.
Zac Brown Band
NRG Stadium
March 12, 2015

In the decade since they first surfaced in the country-music mainstream with 2005's "Chicken Fried," as down-home a finger-lickin' tune as you can download, the Zac Brown Band has now played the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo five times. Actually make that five in a row, putting the Atlanta-based octet on the fast track to someday having its bootprints enshrined in the rodeo's "Star Trail of Fame"; right alongside their "As She's Walking Away" duet partner Alan Jackson.

Thursday night at NRG Stadium, the ZBB gave the second-largest crowd of the 2015 rodeo season a taste of what the national TV audience of Saturday Night Live got last weekend. Yes, it tasted like chicken, but Brown and his nimble bandmates can rearrange their sound as many ways as there are to prepare that noble flightless bird for the dinner table. No matter the flavor, all of them were delicious.

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Tim McGraw Fights Off Vocal Troubles to Play the Hits

Photos by Marco Torres
Tim McGraw
NRG Stadium
March 10, 2015

It was near the end of their performance that Tim McGraw and his band hit their stride. McGraw's vocals had finally been adjusted and underlined with harmonies, and the guitars had been turned way up. Coupled with the grit of some of the later songs and the flair with which they were performed, the end of the band's set at RodeoHouston Tuesday night was respectable. Up until that point, it had been hit-or-miss.

While performing his older songs, McGraw displayed a tenacity that was absent from his newer cuts. Solely as a vocalist, his delivery wasn't all too convincing. (To be fair, he was rumored to be suffering from a cold.) But as a performer, a nostalgic one at that, the merits of his set were innumerable.

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Fall Out Boy Soars in Rodeo Debut

Photos by Marco Torres
Fall Out Boy
NRG Stadium
March 8, 2015

It was weird when the Rodeo released the genre calendar to tease this year's musical lineup and there was no mention of rock music on it. It's not that you can't have a rocking good time with country music, it just seemed odd. Were there really no rock bands they could come down to grace the revolving stage?

Then the lineup came out and there was Fall Out Boy, placed in one of the pop slots along with Pitbull and Ariana Grande. It's weird company to be in, but Fall Out Boy are no strangers to weird company. They are touring with Wiz Khalifa this summer, after all.

But credit to the rodeo for the booking; Fall Out Boy may not be for everyone, but it's good to see rock music of some kind getting a seat at the table, even if it's a seat that comes less from the band's pop-punk roots and more from their big pop hooks.

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John Legend Shines on Perfect RodeoHouston Date Night

Photos courtesy of Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo
John Legend
NRG Stadium
March 6, 2015

Clad in a gray suit and a black bow tie, John Legend strutted onto the RodeoHouston stage Friday night looking like the James Bond of Rush Limbaugh's nightmares.

But unlike Limbaugh, Legend exuded class during his performance. From the onset of the evening to its finale, he kept the crowd in a frenzied state with the slightest of hip movements and a voice like butter. Ever gracious, he broke into a smile every few minutes as the crowd sang along and screamed in adoration.

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