Kip Moore walked onto the stage of Templeton-Blackburn Alumni Memorial Auditorium dressed in an all-black ensemble. His band didn’t follow, and he performed his first three songs with just the guitar in his hands.
Surrounding the barstool on which Moore sat were at least eight other guitars and empty spaces left for his band. Light on the stage was provided by a warm lamp, decorative lights, an old jukebox and neon beer signs for Budweiser and Coors.
“You guys probably haven’t seen us like this before,” Moore said. “You’re probably used to the electric guitars.”
The stop Friday was part of Moore’s acoustic tour, Room To Spare, which is named after his stripped-down album released last year. The opener, newcomer Muscadine Bloodline, also stuck to the acoustic theme.
The duo of Charlie Muncaster and Gary Stanton wielded acoustic guitars and let their harmonizing voices be the focus. The Alabama musicians sang their hits, including “Can’t Tell You No,” “Depending on the Night” and “Porch Swing Angel.” But the audience responded most to the group’s song “Enemy,” a song about depression and anxiety.
“We’re just like you,” member Stanton said. “We just have a different job, and it’s sitting up here on this stage.”
Josh and Ashton Iles from Columbus have seen Moore perform about six times, including a previous stop on the Room To Spare tour in Akron. Muscadine Bloodline didn’t open for the country singer on that stop, so the Ileses were happy to be introduced to the group.
“You know it’s good when it gives you goosebumps,” Ashton said.
After Muscadine Bloodline closed its set with “Ginny,” Moore waltzed out shortly after with a red solo cup in hand. He clanked the cans of his fans in the front row, and his band came out after those first few songs.
“You all can drink in here right?” Moore said, addressing audience members with beers in hand. “Okay, well, cheers. I didn’t want to be an a-----e and raise my glass if it was dry.”
Moore played his hits and fan-favorites, including “Last Shot,” “Beer Money,” “Up All Night,” “More Girls Like You,” “Plead The Fifth” and “That Was Us.”
One of the highlights of the set was during the song “Magic,” which brought a little bit of its name to the venue. The single-beam lights on stage pointed toward the disco ball on the ceiling, causing a shimmering flood of light that transformed MemAud into a scene straight out of a movie. That part was one of Ashton’s favorite parts.
Josh and Ashton said the performance in Akron was wonderful, which brought them to the Athens stop.
“If you can see music like this and not like it, you’re not a fan of music,” Josh said.
Moore closed out his traditional set with “Hey Pretty Girl.” He deviated from the originally recorded track by taking different vocal paths and holding out notes a little longer. But when he finished the song and walked off the stage, the lights didn’t go up.
A chant of “OU, oh yeah” brought Moore back on stage for an encore. He started out solo again, playing “Dirt Road” and “Running For You.” The band joined him for a performance of “Somethin’ ’Bout A Truck,” but retreated to a mini bar at the back of the stage for Moore’s performance of the deeply personal “Guitar Man.”
Unlike the beginning of his set, Moore finished the concert with his band flanked on either side of the guitar man.
They stepped forward and put their arms around each other in brotherly support as Moore sang, “She's back in Georgia, and I'm here with you.”