Summer is winding down, but Thomas Rhett is turning up! The country superstar performed for a sold-out crowd at Madison Square Garden in New York City on Friday, September 20, for his first-ever headlining concert at the historic venue.
As part of his Very Hot Summer tour, which launched in April and runs through October, Rhett, 29, embraced the final stretch of the season with a setlist featuring 20-plus chart-toppers, turning the Garden into the ultimate beach party (well, minus the sand).
The reigning ACM Male Artist of the Year opened the show with “Look What God Gave Her,” the crossover hit from his new album, Center Point Road. Dressed in a baseball cap, a short-sleeve red button-down and fitted jeans, Rhett shot up in the air from a toaster lift and landed on stage ‘90s-boy-band style. His jolting entrance brought the audience to their feet, where they remained until the encore 90 minutes later.
The party really started with the second song, “Crash and Burn” from 2015’s Tangled Up. Smiling fans raised their beers and danced in the aisles, all while echoing the man of the hour: “Teardrops fallin’ DOOOOOWN.” Rhett continued to throw it back when he transitioned into “Get Me Some of That,” a pure-country single off his 2013 debut, It Goes Like This, that had just about everyone “shakin’ their money makers.”
Throughout the night, an on-top-of-the-world Rhett marched to the beat of his own drum with a six-piece band behind him, including a saxophonist and a trumpeter. His off-the-cuff dance moves were contagious, and his banter between songs charmed the crowd. He was a champion on stage through and through, much like his pop idol, Bruno Mars.
During the upbeat party anthems “Don’t Threaten Me With a Good Time” and “Vacation,” the Tennessee native cranked things up about 15 notches, to the point where the floor of the Garden actually started vibrating. His surprising interpolation of Justin Timberlake’s jazzy “Suit & Tie” during “Make Me Wanna” had a similar end result.
Rhett shined the most when he honored his loved ones, which was often. At one point, he wiped tears from his eyes as he reflected on his journey from Nashville to the Garden. He then announced that his entire family, including his pregnant wife, Lauren Akins, and their two daughters, Willa, 3, and Ada, 2, were in the house to support his latest career milestone.
During the autobiographical “Life Changes,” Rhett gave a shout-out to Akins and their girls by slightly altering the lyrics on the 2017 album version. He also paid tribute to the everlasting innocence of his childhood buddies and growing family on his latest single, “Remember You Young.” And during the unreleased number “To the Guys That Date My Girls,” which he said he wrote about three weeks prior, Rhett made the crowd chuckle with the line, “Remember when you pull her close to leave some room for Jesus / ‘Cause if you ever cross that line, I swear, boy, you’re gonna meet him.”
Rhett closed out the evening with some pyrotechnics, colorful confetti and three of his biggest hits to date: the swoon-worthy acoustic ballad “Die a Happy Man,” the lovestruck, Mangorita-guzzling “Unforgettable” and the country-rock bro anthem “T-Shirt.”
After the show, Rhett likely retired to his hotel room with his family, but his high-energy set left many fans wanting to take him out for a celebratory shot of tequila instead. He sure did earn it.
3.5 stars (out of 4)