The skies opened up, and the Steamboat Days faithful lifted their arms to the heavens and praised St. Luke.
And the rain came down upon the waterfront as Burlington was baptized with country music by Luke Bryan.
Last night will live long in many memories as the best Boatin’ night in history.
It began with Morgan Frazier, who performed at the CMA Music Festival in Nashville last week, then drove up to Burlington to open last night’s show. The 19-year-old wore cowboy boots and cutoffs and said it was by far the largest crowd she’s ever entertained.
“I’m blown away by the people,” Frazier said after her 45-minute set. “I had a wonderful time here.”
So did the audience, who grooved to Morgan’s powerful vocals as she covered hits from Janis Joplin’s “Bobby McGee” to Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues” to Pat Benatar’s “Heartbreaker.” Frazier is young and green, but she commands attention when she sings, and we’ll be seeing her down the road as a major star.
The skies were spitting, and the backdrop was being furled when emcee Scott Smith announced Luke Bryan, who came roaring into the night with his hit, “Rain Is a Good Thing.” Bryan wore skin-tight jeans over thighs an NFL running back would boast, and he worked the runway to an ocean of screams from the heavily female population of the VIP pit.
Five University of Nebraska co-eds drove over from Lincoln yesterday to hold up signs for Luke Bryan.
“No, Luke Bryan, you shake it for us!” one placard said.
Lindsay McElhose, Brooke Andrijeski, Jocelyn Hopkins, Jenna Peterson and Jenna Uher wailed like cheerleaders, “We’re the Luke Bryan Shakers!” bouncing with pure joy.
Bryan did two things we haven’t seen in a month of Steamboat Days nights.
He danced. Cue the shrieking and panting girls.
He played in the rain. And the harder it came down, the harder Bryan played.
It began pouring a few songs into the set, and Bryan stayed out on the runway, embracing the gentle rain and the waves of good vibes that flooded from the audience.
“Here’s the deal,” he said going into yet another of his songs that had the people singing along like they were at a Pentecostal tent revival. “Let it rain, let it pour, let’s get drunk!”
It was a lot like Woodstock, without the mud. And the absence of lightning was a blessing.
Bryan is a showman and knows how to work the crowd so well he generated surging tides of noise from his faithful, like Moses at a picnic down by the Red Sea, just by standing there beaming down upon everyone.
He had no trouble remembering where he was and made multiple references to Burlington – even changing the lyrics to the verse of one song to make it about Burlington by the Mississippi – and the state.
“Iowa needs rain, so we ain’t stoppin’!” Bryan shouted into the deluge. “We’ll just have the biggest wet T-shirt contest ever!”
The resulting outburst deafened all who weren’t wearing earplugs.
It was a fabulous night to be alive in our little corner of the world. The stage lights turned the falling water into a tapestry more beautiful than any special effect, and Bryan’s band put out great music throughout, and they left the safety of the overhang to join their leader in the downpour, making them one with the audience.
Luke Bryan turned the storm into perfect Steamboat weather.
The southside bands were there, too: Spazm was blessed with a large, rain-free pre-Bryan audience.
“We enjoyed everyone singing along, and all the smiles on their faces,” Spazm guitarist Bryan Siverly said.
Chicago’s Mike & Joe, plagued by mayflies last year, inherited fans soaked and exhausted by Bryan.
But everyone still was smiling when they went home.