Jake Owen stripped it down, took requests, talked Aaron Rodgers at Tiki Tonk Tour at Meyer
GREEN BAY - Jake Owen’s Down to the Tiki Tonk Tour was as fun to catch as it is to say.
His stop Thursday at a sold-out Meyer Theatre felt like you had the good fortune of stumbling across some little hole in the wall you had never heard of and finding a couple of songwriting friends on bar stools singing songs, telling stories, taking requests and drinking beers. Nothing fancy, except for maybe the leg lamp over by the surfboard in the corner.
There's the congenial host with the electric smile in the “Canadian tuxedo,” as pointed out by someone in the audience, singing about barefoot blue jean nights and talking about his mama’s sweet tea. One of his buddies is from the same Florida hometown as he is and once sent a silly love song called "Like My Dog" to the head of Purina and never heard back. The other, the one with the big beard, "a bad habit of stools going out on me when I sit down" and a 6-month-old son named after Waylon Jennings, is a former concrete worker who was playing a wedding after-party in a barn when they met.
Owen, Scotty Emerick and Larry Fleet, respectively.
Three hours later, when you walk out, you know a half-dozen people in the audience by name, you’ve heard an Aaron Rodgers story, been tossed a beer from the cooler onstage (apologies for no Spotted Cow, Owen says), sung along to “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” and found yourself chanting “Larry! Larry!”
Owen stripped the concert experience way down but kept the energy way up for an acoustic tour that took him back to his early days of playing clubs. A polished arena act — his last visit to Green Bay was at the Resch Center six years ago — he played it cool, loose and in the moment for 1,000 fans who delighted in whatever was around the next bend.
Owen is a chameleon, able to move with ease from the laid-back chillin' and sippin' vibe of "Beachin'" to a stirring cover of Hank Williams Jr.'s "The Blues Man" to sliding "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" theme song into arena anthem "Barefoot Blue Jean Night." "Yee-Haw" good-ol' boy one minute and sentimental "LAX" crooner the next.
When Emerick and Fleet, along with a guitarist, bassist and drummer, joined him for the second half, he was content to be the smiling man in the middle and let his support acts shine. Emerick sang "I Love This Bar," the Toby Keith hit he co-wrote, and Fleet ripped through Vince Gill's "Liza Jane." They joined forces at night's end for "Will the Circle Be Unbroken," the first time Owen had ever closed one of his shows with a gospel number, he told the crowd.
Fun with fans. If arenas bring people together 10,000 in one fell swoop, Owen did it one person at a time within the cozy confines of the Meyer. He sang “Happy Birthday” to a different "Owen" in the balcony who just returned from Afghanistan and thanked him for his service. He acknowledged the fan who, like him, had been at the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas during the 2017 mass shooting, and gave a shout-out to another who was seeing him in concert for the 194th time.
When someone named Erica told him to “check your Twitter,” because she had been tweeting at him, he pulled out his phone and started scrolling. When he discovered by tweet that 7-year-old Weston was in the crowd for his first concert, he called him up by the stage for a high-five and later a $20 bill someone slipped onstage with a song request. That will buy a lot of M&Ms, he told him.
“This is my favorite part of the show. It turns into ‘The Price Is Right.’ People start yelling stuff,” Owen said.
Stumped by a request. He took requests all night, but seemed genuinely surprised when he called on a man in "the nice-looking western shirt” who asked to hear “Somewhere in the Middle.”
“Are you serious? How do you know that song? It’s never been released. It’s never been on an album,” Owen said.
“YouTube,” the man replied.
“Do you remember how it goes, sir?” Owen joked.
When he admitted he couldn’t come up with the lyrics to a song he wrote years ago, he promised to work on it. Later in the night, after a 20-minute intermission, he had someone backstage dig up the lyrics and bring a printed version out to him. He played the song.
Beating out Aaron Rodgers. Owen, both a Tennessee Titans and Green Bay Packers fan, told the crowd he golfed with Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers earlier in the month at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am in California. In the top-three shootout for charity, it came down to Owen, Rodgers and former San Francisco 49ers player Harris Barton for a shot at $100,000.
“There’s a great picture on Instagram I posted of me ... winning, and Aaron Rodgers is in the background tasting defeat. It’s not often he feels that way,” Owen said.
He said he texted Rodgers to come to the show but assumed he was busy with the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. He dedicated "Don't Think I Can't Love You" to him.
Everybody loved Larry. Fleet was a revelation. A name not many country fans yet know, his debut album, "Workin' Hard," came out in November. It was Owen, after hearing him at the barn party playing for a handful of people, who persuaded the singer-songwriter to go all in with a music career.
His powerful, soulful voice took full command of the Meyer and instantly impressed a crowd that chanted his name throughout the night. His own "Where I Find God" is a beauty, and his rendition of "Amanda" when all three singers shared the stage later in the night, made the hair on your arms stand up. Owen was right when he said everyone would leave a Fleet fan.
Here's betting one day those same fans will be able to say they saw country's next Chris Stapleton-caliber voice (and beard) when he played a little acoustic show at the Tiki Tonk in Green Bay.
Contact Kendra Meinert at 920-431-8347 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @KendraMeinert.