Two weeks ago, country crooner Thomas Rhett was onstage at Gillette Stadium, winning over Kenny Chesney’s audiences with his hooky, nostalgia-tinged tunes. Friday morning, the singer returned to the site of an earlier career triumph — Fenway’s House of Blues, where he notched his first career sellout — for a stripped-down show celebrating the release of “Life Changes,” his third album.
Rhett played a laid-back set to a full house of fans who’d lined up on Lansdowne Street as early as 2 a.m. to see him on his one-day, three-city “From the B-Stage” mini-tour.
“We don’t ever get to do this anymore,” Rhett said before the show. “For this record, it’s so much about looking back that I thought: Let’s for real look back. I played this place forever ago — it’s nice to kind of get back to your roots a little bit and get to be able to see faces, instead of just blobs in the back.”
“Life Changes,” which came out Friday, is a warm, open LP that looks at Rhett’s life through a nostalgic lens. His father, Rhett Akins, was one of country’s brighter lights in the ’90s with hits like “That Ain’t My Truck,” and he contributes a song on his son’s disc, the rave-up “Drink a Little Beer.”
“He sent me the song in an e-mail,” Rhett recalled. “I’m pretty sure I was on the road, and I just forgot to open the attachment — just forgot to listen to the song. We were out at the farm one night, and me and Dad were passing the phone back and forth, playing songs we had written. Dad played ‘Drink a Little Beer,’ and everyone around the fire was just like, ‘Dude, what is this song?’ Dad was like, ‘I sent it to you — I know you won’t cut it.’ ” Rhett not only recorded it, he included his father on the album version.
Rhett’s performance Friday included oldies like the funky “Vacation” as well as “Life Changes” tracks like “Sixteen,” which he says was inspired by his desire to “look back and try to convince [his] 16-year-old self not to wish [he] were 18, but just soak in being that age.” The set closed with the breezy “Unforgettable” and after it finished the ever-gracious Rhett hopped offstage to pose for photos with fans.