Concert review: HARDY | 05.31.24, Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre (with photo gallery)

Photo of HARDY by Colin Williams

w/ Stephen Wilson Jr., Travis Denning, and Kip Moore

“Start washin’ all our worries down the drain, rain is a good thing!”

Wrong artist, right sentiment. The popular Luke Bryan lyrics may hold true for cornfields and cattle herders, but it can make for an unpleasant evening at an outdoor music venue. Despite this, Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre was packed tight with patrons adorned with plastic ponchos and scores of country girls regretting their wardrobe decisions on Friday night. In spite of the overcast skies and steady rain over St. Louis, blue-collared country music fans remained undeterred, coming out to enjoy live music in the lawn section, renting lawn chairs from the amphitheater or huddling close on blankets they had brought in. There was likely some envy for the coveted closer (and covered) seating, but this didn’t stop admirers from crowding into the lawn and filling every open patch of grass, a testament to the following of the four great artists coming out to entertain the packed venue. 

Starting the night off were two of HARDY’s supporting artists on the QUIT!! Tour, Stephen Wilson Jr. and Travis Denning. With distinct southern drawls, both artists appealed to the country-loving Midwestern audience. Wilson showcased some of his original work, playing songs such as “Billy” and “Year To Be Young 1994,” as well as covering “Something in the Way” by grunge-rock legends Nirvana.  

Travis Denning took the stage shortly after Wilson Jr. and performed an eight-song set including originals like “Strawberry Wine and A Cheap Six Pack,” “ABBY,” as well as “Dirt Road Down.” “ABBY” had the crowd singing just slightly out of pitch back to the singer, with a catchy “any-body-but-you” punchline making the song a standout. Denning, much like HARDY, moved to Nashville, TN, and began to write music for current popular artists such as Chase Rice and Jason Aldean before launching his own solo career. Denning maintained the crowd’s attention by performing the nostalgic Bon Jovi classic “Wanted Dead or Alive” before closing the night with an impressive solo during his last song that brought him to one knee while shredding for the crowd.

As the night progressed, a more familiar face in country music took the stage, Kip Moore. Moore is best known for his 2012 hit single “Somethin’ ‘Bout A Truck.” Moore has a softer and smoother style of country music than HARDY, leaning heavier into his soothing southern twang and pleasant rhythms. Kip Moore fans in the audience were treated to some of his best songs including “She’s Mine,” “Faith When I Fall,” and, of course, “Somethin’ ‘Bout A Truck.” Towards the end of his set, Moore bravely covered Radiohead’s “Creep,” an arguably difficult and wildly popular song to cover. Moore shouted out St. Louis during “Come and Get It,” began beginning “Shoot You Down” as a solo (before being joined by his band mid-song), and ended with “Last Shot” off his album Slowheart.

From performing at The Pageant in St. Louis just one year ago to packing nearly twenty thousand fans into Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre this past Friday, HARDY has come a very long way in a relatively short time. HARDY has truly emerged from the shadows of country music where he was once ghost-writing radio-safe hit songs for modern country music icons like Morgan Wallen, Chris Lane, and Florida Georgia Line, shaking up the genre as he broke out on his own. HARDY writes music for the angry blue-collar class as he sings about poor rural hardships, nonsense in the industry, and sometimes just about a rifle and what it means to him. He adds elements of rock/metal music into his songs with heavy distortion riffs and high energy percussion and shows no qualms about dropping F-Bombs and other harsh language that may prevent his songs from hitting public country radio waves. 

HARDY sings, HARDY screams, and now apparently HARDY does a little bit of rap as well. The singer took the stage with one of his latest singles, “Quit!!,” the title track from his upcoming album release dropping July 12th. His face appeared in black & white on the enormous screen behind the dim stage as he rapped the first verses of the track before making his explosive entrance. HARDY wants everyone to know he’s a rock star now, and he proved it not only with his pyrotechnics and dizzying strobe lights, but also by writing and performing a new single called just that. HARDY’s version references Nickelback’s original bombshell hit song, “Rockstar,” by name, with a music video paying homage to everyone from Freddy Mercury to Fred Durst.

HARDY has amassed a cult-like following spanning across genres, enabling him to comfortably perform in front of hardworking country folk in headlining shows as well as rock music enthusiasts at the largest music festivals in America. HARDY left none of his fans disappointed with his impressive 23-song setlist that included his most popular tracks such as “Sold Out,” “Jack,” “Rednecker,” and “Truck Bed.” HARDY even encored with “God’s Country,” a Grammy nominated / CMA award winning single performed by Blake Shelton that HARDY himself co-wrote. HARDY’s story and music is an inspiration to other “black sheep” ghostwriters to pave their own way in the music industry. The QUIT!! Tour continues through October, with shows spanning the country. | Colin Williams

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