FOXBOROUGH — Sunday night is normally a time for bracing oneself for the work week — ironing clothes, prepping lunches. Luke Bryan took a different tack on Sunday at Gillette Stadium, laying down a pyrotechnic-heavy set of his party-forward brand of country music and pushing the sold-out crowd’s workweek blues off the table for an extra few hours.
The Georgia-born Bryan has been dubbed one of the leaders of “bro country,” a movement defined by its high proportion of male singers, its borrowing from hip-hop and big-tent pop, and its lyrical focus on partying and ladies. It’s not an entirely unfair mantle to hang on Bryan, particularly when it comes to the pursuit of a good time. He’s released multiple EPs conceptually based on the annual bacchanal known as spring break, his recent country No. 1 “Play It Again” is about the shared wonder that comes from hearing a favorite song, and at one point during Sunday’s show he utilized strategically placed coolers to distribute beers to the crowd. The term does slightly underestimate his appeal, though, especially since “bro” has become a bit of a pejorative term among the kind of people who traffic in microgenres’ names.
Musically, such swaggering Bryan offerings as the whiskey-soaked “All My Friends Say” and the stomping “That’s My Kind of Night” owe as much to the good-time splendor of arena rock as they do to the down-home twang of Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard. But the bombast of his uptempo songs’ rip-roaring guitars and shout-along choruses is punctured somewhat by his humble, jokey persona, and such reflective songs as the workaday lament “Shut It Down” and the grief-stricken “Drink a Beer” reveal his more introspective side. Those quieter tracks were highlights, although Bryan brought back the good-time vibe in enough time to incorporate Taio Cruz’s peppy “Dynamite” and Jason DeRulo’s lusty “Talk Dirty” into his set’s final, firework-spangled moments.
Bryan was also a gracious host, thanking the crowd effusively and bringing each of his three openers — Dierks Bentley, Lee Brice, and Cole Swindell, all of whom he described as close friends — out for duets. The charismatic Bentley went on right before Bryan, and his plainspoken lyrics, paired with his eagerly expressed wonder at Gillette Stadium’s massiveness, got the crowd sufficiently riled up. Like Bryan, Bentley has embraced the parties-and-women bro-country ideal on such tracks as “Drunk on a Plane,” which inspired many singalongs from the seats. Also like Bryan, his appeal has layers; his stormy performance of his 2010 tune “Up on the Ridge” also commanded attention and revealed how deep Bentley’s affection for country’s past ran.