Rap star Kanye West shocked and deeply disappointed 13,000 fans at Golden One Center when he quit his show on Saturday night three songs in following a bizarre, rambling rant that took to task everyone from Jay Z and Google to our recent presidential candidates.
And while we can’t help but wonder if maybe there’s something going on with Kanye that’s more than just being a profound narcissistic jerk (and if there is, we hope he gets help), his behavior did remind us that when it comes performers and live shows, he is the exception and not the rule. From longtime rockers like Bruce Springsteen and the Rolling Stones to modern pop-era superstars like Lady GaGa and Taylor Swift, there are still plenty of artists who are as committed to their fans as their fans are to them. And in country music, we’re blessed to have some of THE most personable, hard-working performers around. Luke Bryan, Jason Aldean, Tim McGraw, Miranda, Little Big Town…the list of contemporary artists that are a must-see ticket goes on and on.
Here are 5 who, in our opinion, manage to set the bar a little bit higher for everyone else.
5) Kenny Chesney.
One of the most successful touring acts in any genre, Kenny plays before millions whenever he goes out on tour. But he’s never forgotten what it’s like to be a fan in the cheap seats, which is why, to this day during soundcheck in whatever arena or stadium he plays, he will always go up to the very last seat in the venue to make sure the sound and viewing are acceptable.
4) Eric Church.
Eric could almost be a fan who just jumped up on the stage and hijacked the show. His intensity and enthusiasm come from deep-seeded love of performing, and an appreciation for having the chance to do it as a career. Case in point: that time a couple years ago in Salt Lake City when his whole band came down with the flu the day of a sold-out show. Eric could’ve re-scheduled. Instead, he went out with just his acoustic guitar and proceeded to turn in a legendary performance that underscores the man’s commitment to his fans. And oh yeah, THEN he re-scheduled and came back when his band was better.
3) Carrie Underwood.
Carrie could easily just stand there and let her amazing voice do all the work. But instead, she has continually pushed herself onstage, becoming more bold and animated with each successive tour. When she started she was just this nice girl from Oklahoma who won that new TV talent show. Now, she is one of North America’s biggest touring superstars who’s developed an onstage strut to match that incredible vocal range. AND she’s learned guitar and harmonica!
2) Keith Urban.
Nobody, except maybe our artist at number one, has a more natural ability to interact with fans and improvise on the fly than Keith. Like Carrie, he could be content to just rely on his amazing voice and guitar work, but it seems like Keith wants everyone to go home not just smiling but grinning ear-to-ear. He’s quick with a joke, knows more songs than a honky-tonk jukebox, and is confident enough in himself to let an audience member take over the spotlight, like when he recently let this fan come onstage and jam.
1) Garth Brooks.
It’s not even fair, really, to include Garth on this list. From helping a blind kid who found himself unwittingly onstage at Arco Arena back in the mid-1990s, to allowing a young cancer survivor (above) come onstage with him recently and sing, Garth re-set the bar for what a live concert should be. For darn near everyone. Best of all, after all these years he STILL looks like he’s having more fun than anybody in the house.
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