Blake Shelton, country singing star and coach for TV’s “The Voice,” felt some pressure Sunday night in Tiger Stadium.
Shelton, Bayou Country Superfest’s Sunday night headliner, took the stage 30 minutes after his scheduled starting time. Earlier, he’d watched his singing star wife, Miranda Lambert, perform during a rainstorm that drenched Tiger Stadium.
Wind and severe rain forced Lambert to cut her Superfest set short. She ended strong with Mountain’s classic rocker, “Mississippi Queen.”
“Miranda Lambert rocked it in a rainstorm,” Superfest producer-director Quint Davis said after the soaked singer left the rain-slicked stage. “We’ll never forget it.”
Festivalgoers poured onto the stadium’s interior walkways and ramps. About 95 minutes later, Shelton opened his delayed set with “Neon Lights,” a song from his latest album, “Bringing Back the Sunshine.”
“Hey, everybody,” he said afterward. “I think the rain is gone. Let’s raise some hell.”
A visual comparison of people in the stadium, before and after the rain, suggested few left. Following Shelton’s second song, “All About Tonight,” he marveled that so many stayed through the storm late on a Sunday night. And he was feeling pressure, feeling nervous, he said.
“It don’t help the fact, too, man, that I stood over there and saw how bad-ass my wife is!” Shelton said, inspiring a cheer for Lambert. “Like a lightning rod out here. She’s not afraid.”
After the rain and the often rapping, hard-rock, testy country acts who preceded Shelton at Superfest 2015, Shelton was the ideal artist to take the show home to its country roots.
The Oklahoma native has some rowdy, outlaw country singer in him, but he also brought class to Superfest. And following Lambert’s brief show, there was poetic justice in her husband’s performance of his sweet love song, “Doin’ What She Likes.” The non-visible stars had aligned.
Shelton kicked it up with one of his outlaw songs, “Kiss My Country Ass.” But his country and working-class pride, unlike the negative, even violent sentiments expressed by some other Superfest performers this year, is more fun than threatening. If there’s a case of them vs. us to be made, Shelton convincingly plays the good guy, as he did in “Some Beach.”
“Drivin’ down the interstate, running 30 minutes late, singing Margaritaville and minding my own,” he sang during a Jimmy Buffett-style slice-of-life. “Some foreign-car driver dude, with the road-rage attitude, pulled up beside me, talking on his cellphone. He started yelling at me, like I did something wrong. He flipped me the bird and then he was gone.”
During “Some Beach” and its lyrics about life’s little trials, the rain returned.
“I’m not going to leave this place with my wife saying she got soaking wet and I didn’t,” Shelton pledged.
But the rain didn’t last, and Lambert was the only Superfest star who got soaked.
Shelton and his band played until almost midnight. His one hour, 40-minute show included audience-rousing songs (“Hillbilly Bone,” “Boys ’Round Here”) and several romantic selections (“Sure Be Cool If You Did,” “Sangria”) that inspired gently swaying couples all over the stadium.
Before singing the part-love song, part-homesick song, “Home,” Shelton asked festivalgoers to raise their cellphones.
“Oh, my God,” he said when the phones lit the stadium. “I feel like Taylor Swift.”
“Listen to me Baton Rouge,” Shelton said later, before “Footloose,” his first encore song. “It’s been a long time since I came to this town, and I fricking love it!”
Sunday’s opening Superfest act, Cassadee Pope, impressed with her ringing voice, bright stage presence and well-written songs. They include her first hit, “Wasting All These Tears.” She’s also a third-season winner of “The Voice,” coached by Shelton.
David Nail followed Pope with his intense, harder-edged songs. He mentioned that people say he doesn’t sound country. They’re right. There’s more rock snarl in him than country twang.
Superfest’s final day also featured Kip Moore’s songs about girls, trucks and beer. He successfully came off as a young country gun who probably carefully studied the playbooks of Bruce Springsteen and John Mellencamp. Moore’s star is likely to keep rising.
Before rain shut down succeeding performer Lambert’s set, a poor sound mix drowned her vocals. The band overwhelmed her singing during the first three songs and the bass boomed above everything during her fourth song. The sound improved later, but the rain soon put the brakes on everything.
Attendance at this year’s two-day Bayou Country Superfest at Tiger Stadium, as well as Friday’s stand-alone Taylor Swift concert, reached 125,000. Last year’s three-day Superfest, featuring George Strait, drew a record-breaking 135,000.