By Amanda St. Amand Special for the Post-Dispatch
Cody Johnson brought more than his authentic country music to a sold-out crowd of 8,000 fans on Saturday night.
He might as well have packed a stack of poker chips and served as a warning to every country artist, real or pseudo, planning a stopover in St. Louis this year: he’s all in with a show that will be hard to beat.
The Chaifetz Arena crowd would clearly bet on CoJo. From the opening words of “Honky Tonk Hardwood Floors” to his quick transition to “With You I Am,” the former Texas rodeo cowboy and prison guard had fans wrapped tightly around his finger — and got committed to giving them “every ounce of sweat and energy out of my body” all night long.
He delivered like Amazon – jumping around the stage, kicking like a colt for emphasis and pouring his strong voice into songs like “Dance Her Home”, “Son of a Ramblin’ Man” and “Me and My Kind”. Note to Nashville: Almost none of these songs can be heard on the radio, yet fans sang almost everything. Go figure.
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As the show neared its final 30 minutes, Johnson perched on a stool near the front of the stage and described how he had suffered for four or five years from old rodeo injuries. He ended up having six-hour neck surgery after a surgeon in Texas warned him that without the procedure he could lose the use of his right arm.
He then launched into “Human” from his recent double album, and followed that up with his first No. 1 song, “Until You Can’t.”
He told fans he’s said for years that he wants his legacy to make country music sound like real country music again – and he’s more than done his part with lots of loud fiddle, pedal steel and banjo from his capable Texan band.
He closed his 1 hour, 45 minute, 19 song set with “Dear Rodeo” and a huge ovation. Sort of like a royal flush.
Some headliners try to shake up the evening menu; if the entry is country roots, maybe an opener veers into pop. Not Johnson.
With Easton Corbin and Ian Munsick, the openers were on the traditional train. No rap lyrics, no pop sounds, no EDM.
From Corbin, it was a menu of solo hits dating back to 2010 with “A Little More Country Than That”, “All Over the Road” and “Roll With It”.
Featuring Wyoming newcomer Munsick, it was a quick seven-song, 30-minute set highlighted by “Long Live Cowgirls,” in which Johnson briefly joined him onstage.