Rodney Atkins Takes a Back Road to NYC (original publication on countrymusicislove.com)

Rodney Atkins
iHeartRadio Theater
Tribeca, NYC
Nov. 4, 2011

The original publication of this article can be found on www.countrymusicislove.com

On Friday night, New York City was treated to an intimate live performance from one of the rising stars of country music, Rodney Atkins.  I was greeted by Vanessa Wojtusiak, the Manager of Digital Marketing & Programming at Clear Channel Online Music & Radio, who informed me that the Theater was just renamed to the iHeartRadio Theater (formerly known as the PC Richard & Sons Theater).  This music venue is one of the best I’ve ever been to.  It gives fans an up close experience to top artists while providing exceptional acoustics.

At approximately 7 p.m., Jonathan Clarke, an on-air personality from New York’s Q104.3 came out to warmly great the crowd and introduce Rodney.  He asked the crowd if anyone was from Rodney’s home town of Knoxville and informed us that Rodney’s last single (“Take A Back Road”) was the fastest rising of his career.  Rodney came out and modestly stated “This first request is for you guys.”  The fiddle sounded and his band jumped right into “These Are My People”. 

Rodney is not flashy at all.  He was dressed simply in a trucker hat, a grey sweater, and brown cargo slacks.  He was very soft spoken between his songs and really lets his music do the entertaining.  He prides himself on singing about real life events that normal people can relate to.  He took the time to sing the next two songs about his son, Elijah, who was actually in the crowd.  He stated “this is for my little bear” and emotionally sang the smash hit “Watching You”.  As the yellow and blue lights swirled and filled the theater, it was an amazing moment to see his son react to the song his father was singing.  He was full of smiles and jumped up and down singing right along with him. 

The next song was also about his son as Rodney jokingly explained that his son had just hit double digits (in age) and Rodney knew what he did when he was younger was going to come back haunt him.   But he always wanted his son to know he loved him “and it’s unconditional.”  He then sang his new song on country radio, “He’s Mine”.  It sounded even better live than it did it does on the radio as extra emotion was pumped through Rodney’s vocals.  He certainly has yet another hit on his hands. 
Rodney took the time to introduce his band before he sang “Farmer’s Daughter” which included amazing instrumental moments from a band member playing a banjo and another on the steel guitar.  It is good old country music at its finest.  He introduced the next song as the first love song he has ever done.  He said its “hard to find a real love song because once you are in a relationship it’s not all blue skies and no bills”.   He, of course, was talking about “Cabin In The Woods”, a real stand-out song off of his newest album. 

His next song was the one the crowd was obviously waiting for as the entire Theater sang “Take A Back Road” in unison with Rodney.  In fact, he seemed to be getting more comfortable on stage as he was very animated and interactive during this huge hit.  He followed it up by singing to a fan in the crowd who was celebrating a birthday.  He performed an acoustic version of the fan’s favorite song, Garth Brooks’ classic hit “Much Too Young To Feel This Damn Old”. 

Rodney finished up his set by proudly toasting all the soldiers who were serving abroad and stating “may we all be in heaven five minute before the devil knows we’re there!”  He of course was eluding to arguably his biggest hit “If You’re Going Through Hell”.  Rodney did not use his guitar for the first time that night as he used every inch of the stage.  He was clearly most at ease singing this song and he was nothing but energy and smiles throughout. 

I was able to speak to Rodney after the show and I asked him what he was most proud of with the new album.  His response was “Not to be trite, but we love keeping the music real to who we are. And our album’s material has not wavered from the first album. And I love the way I can keep my music true to who I am.”  He also explained to me that the album took a long time to make because he really wanted the right songs to be on the record.  My friend Max who came with me to the show explained that from one father to another, he hoped he could see his son’s face during “Watching You” and “He’s Mine”, because it was a powerful reaction. Rodney as always, was very gracious and humble.  For such a soft spoken guy, his music really speaks loudly and you could tell everyone at the iHeartRadio Theater that night really connected with his music. 

All photos are courtesy of Jeremy Harris of iHeartRadio.  All in all, it was an exceptional show in a superb venue. Thank you to CountryMusicIsLove, iHeart Radio, and Clear Channel Radio for such a great experience.

Setlist

  1. These Are My People
  2. Watching You
  3. He’s Mine
  4. Farmer’s Daughter
  5. Cabin In the Woods
  6. Take A Back Road
  7. Much Too Young To Feel This Damn Old (Garth Brooks Cover)
  8. If You’re Going Through Hell