It may not have been ‘Sunny and 75’ in Foxborough last Thursday, but Joe Nichols sure knew how to bring the heat to the snow-laden grounds of New England.
Though Patriot Place was relatively quiet following the Northeast’s first snowstorm of the season, Six String Grill & Stage was set alive with cowboy boot-clad patrons eager for a night of music to break them out of their cabin fever.
Joe Nichols was a welcome deliverance!
Warming up the stage for him was New England’s own, Annie Brobst. She sparked the night with her bubbly, energetic stage presence. Fans sang along to her well-known songs, such as ‘Ghost’ and ‘Still Water.’ But her crowd-pleaser, ‘Red Wine On My Mind,’ raised glasses and voices throughout the venue. Annie’s opening gave us the sweetest taste of an evening of fun.
After coming out to ‘It Ain’t No Crime,’ Joe Nichols’ first words to the crowd were, “Let’s get naked!” This exclamation led him into his 2011 single, ‘Take It Off,’ and launched fans into an unforgettable night of hit after hit.
Joe Nichols has a voice that fills the air with classic country sound. Since hitting the stage in the mid 90’s, he’s echoed his influencing artists such as Alan Jackson and Keith Whitley while keeping up with the pop fusion in contemporary country music. His rich southern twang, coupled with his energized lyrics, offer plenty of range to stir a wide-aged audience. And that’s just what he had before him in Foxborough. Fans, both young and old, gravitated closer to the stage with each song. Nichols’ engagement with the crowd, i.e. tossing out dozens of guitar picks and encouraging sing-alongs, was nothing short of magnetic!
While the harsh New England air battered the windows of Six String, the crowd inside warmed right up to Nichols as he professed that “Mass girls are hot,” before belting out his hit song ‘Hard To Be Cool.’ But he really got the crowd going when he spoke about his attempt to bridge old school rap with country. Laughing, he confessed that a lot of people, including his label, took his rendition of ‘Baby Got Back’ too seriously, but he seriously killed it! The label may not have been impressed, but the crowd ate it up!
Nichols spoke candidly about the trials songwriters face when putting out new music. He told the crowd that when he presented one producer with ‘Who Are You When I’m Not Looking,’ the producer told him the song would go nowhere… Blake Shelton made it a #1.
While we all love Blake’s version, watching Nichols perform it, eyes closed, heart open, we all realized how amazing this song is.
The most touching moment came when Joe spoke to the crowd about personal connections through music. He reminisced on all the times that fans have come to him with stories. Stories about how his songs have touched them. He told the crowd how people have told him about “‘The Impossible’ being an inspiration to somebody, or ‘Broken Heartsville’ getting somebody over a bad breakup. Or how ‘Tequila Makes her Clothes Fall Off’ actually does that.” The latter drawing a rowdy response. He continued to say, “That’s a connection I’m fortunate to make!” This offered a seamless passage into his emotionally charged single ‘I’ll Wait For You.’
I won’t lie. This one got me teary-eyed.
Nichols spent the rest of the night serenading his fans with his hit songs like ‘She Only Smokes When She Drinks,’ ‘Brokenheartsville,’ ‘Yeah,’ and ‘Gimme That Girl.’
But when he disappeared from stage and returned donning his cowboy hat, the crowd went wild.
He took full advantage of the energy and belted out my favorite, ‘Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off,’ to a hungry audience that had been waiting on this one all night.
He sent us packing with ‘Sunny And 75’ followed by an inspired rendition of George Strait’s ‘Troubadour.’ This sendoff made it clear that he was type of artist that can mold to the new wave of country while appreciating the greats that came before him.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention his meet and greet.
While most M&G’s occur before a show, Nichols’ took place after.
I don’t know about you, but if I’d just travelled to the wintery Northeast, put my heart into a show, and slapped on a smile for pictures with dozens upon dozens of fans, I’m not sure I’d be the most welcoming person by the end of the night.
I was the second to last fan to have the chance for a meet and greet.
Though I walked up fully expecting a quick pic and boot out the door, Joe Nichols met me with sincere appreciation. He gave a genuine smile as he draped his arm over my shoulder for the photo op. He then asked if I’d enjoyed the show and thanked me for coming out.
Above all, that connection was most impressive! That’s what real country is all about; connecting with fans.
Joe Nichols is all that country was, all it is, and all it should be. He pays homage to the past, keeps up with the present, and has a clear vision of what the future of country music should look like.
I, for one, can’t wait to see what he has in store for us next year!
Photos courtesy of Matthew Allen Photography.