The Band Perry, no longer inhibited as being best-known for a song about untimely death, took the stage at Sunday in the Country this weekend as a much more electrifying group than the one appeared at the same concert last year. Buoyed by an aggressively upbeat set list, video screens, and an Americana medley (“American Pie,” “Jack & Diane,” etc.) that had the thousands at Merriweather Post Pavilion on their feet, the sibling trio rocked the sold-out, day-long music festival like headliners - even though they weren’t actually headlining.
Still, the band — lead singer Kimberly Perry with brothers Reid and Neil Perry — proved up to the task. Kicking up the energy with toe-tappers “Miss You Being Gone,” “Independence,” and new song “Sugar, Sugar,” along with their latest chart-topper, the scorching “You Lie,” they even managed a seamless transition into a countrified version of “Amazing Grace. “We thought we’d have a little bit of church at Sunday in the Country,” Kimberly said.
Of course, the no. 1 hit, Grammy-nominated “If I Die Young,” drew the most intense ovation. “[This song] changed the lives of my brothers and me...this one belongs to you,” Kimberly said as she launched into the haunting, somber tune, clearly growing emotional when the audience sang back the third verse without missing a beat: “And maybe then you’ll hear the words I’ve been singing; funny, when you’re dead, how people start listening.”
Later, crooner Joe Nichols tried his best to keep the crowd buzzing. His hilarious “Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off” is a song you can’t hear too often. But by the time actual headliner Josh Turner hit the stage around 9:15 p.m., the pavilion had become noticeably emptier. Though Turner’s incredible bass voice works wonders with songs about being passionately in love (“Your Man,” “I Wouldn’t Be a Man”) the multiple slowed-down numbers in his set weren’t ideal for a show that had started nearly nine hours earlier. “Folks that are still here, you’re troopers,” Turner noted. “There’s pros and cons to headlining...I was clean shaven this morning.”
Earlier in the day, 20-year-old solo artist Hunter Hayes (imagine a mix between Justin Bieber and Jason Mraz) kicked things off with his irresistibly catchy single, “Storm Warning,” and happily took video of the audience to post on Twitter. Newcomer Frankie Ballard tried to get the crowd to dance, while Brantley Gilbert (filling in for Easton Corbin, who canceled due to illness) cranked up the volume with Southern rock, including “Country Must Be Country Wide” and “Kick It in the Sticks”, and growling through his “Dirt Road Anthem” and “My Kinda Party,” made popular by Jason Aldean.
Meghan Linsey of Steel Magnolia took the stage solo - her duo partner, Joshua Scott Jones, went into rehab last month - and told stories about her days in a Nashville karaoke bar, calling Aretha Franklin’s “Chain of Fools” her “tip jar song” before breaking into the tune.