FGL: an unlikely country hybrid that likes to party
Florida Georgia Line isn’t your typical country act. Far from it.
Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley — the two frontmen for the Nashville-based group — don’t even wear the uniform.
Hubbard dons the garb of a gangsta rapper, black hoodie and ball cap worn backwards, while Kelley prefers a more retro look, long hair, beard, wide-brimmed feathered fedora and a red bandana hanging from a back pocket.
They don’t hang out with your typical Nashville crowd, either. They have collaborated with the Backstreet Boys, reggae star Ziggy Marley and rapper Nelly, as well as country stalwarts like Tim McGraw and Luke Bryan.
They like slipping snippets of songs by House of Pain and Papa Roach into their live set, and their record producer, Joey Moi, is best known for his work with Nickelback.
Florida Georgia Line, it seems, is the new face of country — music for people who like to party, hopefully without puking on their boots.
And the more than 12,000 fans who packed into Hamilton’s FirstOntario Centre Wednesday to see Florida Georgia Line certainly came to party.
It seemed like every second hand in the arena was gripping a tall boy. Despite the fact that Old Camp Whiskey was the show sponsor, Budweiser appeared to be the weapon of choice.
The Florida Georgia Line sound is an unlikely hybrid of rock, rap, pop and country that has made the duo into one of the hottest country acts in the world. It may not be high art, not even close, but it is very popular.
It would all seem quite revolutionary, too, if their songs didn’t contain all the male-dominated clichés that have ruled Nashville for the past 25 years — fast cars, Friday nights, cowgirls in cut-offs, pickup trucks, whiskey, beer and God.
Hubbard and Kelly delivered a high-energy show. Backed by a crack-five piece band and an impressive array of pyrotechnics, they opened with three surefire party rockers — “This Is How We Roll,” “It’z Just What We Do,” and “Round Here” — that, except for minor variations, could easily all be the same song.
There were some tender moments, though. It wouldn’t be a country show without them. There was the sentimental hometown song “Dig Your Roots,” the remorseful “Confession,” and the sickly sweet “God, Your Mama, and Me.”
Hubbard and Kelley even showed they could do some traditional country harmonies on “Smooth.”
They moved to a secondary stage in the midst of the audience for the megahit farm serenade “Dirt” and their latest single, the singalong love song “H.O.L.Y,” as well as a campfire style medley that included “Dayum, Baby,” “Hell Raisin’ Heat of the Summer,” and “Here’s to the “Good Times.”
The ballads came to a close and Florida Georgia Line shifted back into party mode for “Sun Daze” (with some help from opening acts Dustin Lynch, Chris Lane and Morgan Wallen) and “Get Your Shine On.”
The encore opened with “Party People” and a medley of covers that included Nelly’s “Ride Wit Me,” Toby Keith’s “Should’ve Been a Cowboy” and Backstreet Boy’s “Everybody.”
It has only been five years since Florida Georgia Line’s breakthrough hit “Cruise” — Wednesday night’s inevitable closing number — dominated the country charts, so the group’s catalogue is relatively limited compared to more established acts.
Wednesday’s set lasted a little more than 80 minutes, 15 songs and two medleys. But it was enough to satisfy the sell out crowd.
I’m sure the Florida Georgia Line set lists will grow longer in the future with even more oddly matched collaborations. How about Florida Georgia Line meets Metallica or, maybe even, Justin Bieber?
Brian Kelley, left, and Tyler Hubbard played to a sellout crowd Wednesday at FOC.