concert review

Hunt blasts through perplexing playlist at House of Blues

Country-pop singer Sam Hunt in concert at House of Blues Thursday.
Josh Reynolds for The Boston Globe
Country-pop singer Sam Hunt in concert at House of Blues Thursday.

A former college quarterback turned Nashville star, Sam Hunt might well be the most modern of musicians. His music bridges disparate genres, sometimes to dizzying effect, like listening to Spotify on the fritz. What might scan as a country song suddenly sounds like an R&B jam, maybe with a hip-hop flow or a squealing, classic-rock guitar solo for good measure.

Hunt’s unusual fusion of styles made his studio debut, “Montevallo,” one of last year’s biggest surprises, while catapulting its maker onto even bigger stages in front of ballooning crowds.

He arrived at the sold-out House of Blues Thursday night amid shrieks that immediately hijacked his songs and shouted them back at him.


But something was different, amiss. Where his album was an intriguing collision of influences, his live show was a bloated spectacle with plenty of moving parts, and yet no core.

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To give you a sense of Hunt’s country bona fides, you could hear a banjo on “Ex to See.” But it was nowhere to be found onstage; it was plucking away on a backing track.

How Hunt was ever deemed a country artist is a mystery, apart from the twang of his Georgia roots. As a songwriter, he does adhere to the sturdy tenets of classic Nashville storytelling. He’s adept at zooming in on little moments to tell larger truths, as he did on “Cop Car,” about falling in love while being taken to jail. And, of course, his party anthems, “Leave the Night On” and “House Party,” are battle cries of the bro-country movement.

Battling an absymal sound mix, Hunt and his three-piece band — two guitarists, both one-upping the other as if vying for Carlos Santana’s crown, and a drummer who matched their propensity — charged through a set free of finesse and dynamics.

In a glimpse of what might have been, Hunt opened on an intimate note, alone with an acoustic guitar for a taste of “Break Up in a Small Town,” which he would later reprise in full, quaking glory as the closer.


Acknowledging his album runs about 40 minutes, Hunt padded the 70-minute performance with an acoustic medley of hits — not his, mind you. He claimed they were songs that he and his band would play at late-night jam sessions, but really it was just a cheap nostalgia trip to ignite singalongs.

In short order, they blazed through Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me” and Trisha Yearwood’s “She’s in Love With the Boy” to Destiny Child’s “Say My Name” and Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.” It was cute, by karaoke standards, and entirely unnecessary.

For no apparent reason, Hunt even seasoned his own songs with snippets of recent Top 40 hits — a little Drake and Rihanna here, some Miley Cyrus there. Even for someone known to bend and blend genres, it was a confounding gesture, and made you wonder what all of Hunt’s different influences add up to, exactly.

James Reed can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @GlobeJames