As the Season 10 “American Idol” winner, 19-year-old Scotty McCreery is trying to live up to a lot of accolades. At his performance Friday at the Rapids Theatre in Niagara Falls, the first stop on his 2013 Weekend Roadtrip Tour, he proved that although his songs have a little maturing to do, he’s earned every bit of that praise.
A surprisingly mixed audience was in attendance, with the Rapids housing everyone from NASCAR jacket-sporting dads to pink cowboy hat-wearing teenage girls. However, when the lights dimmed and McCreery launched into his first song, the high-decibel shrieks of “We love you, Scotty!” showed which demographic is his most enthusiastic following.
McCreery was a delight to watch. Blessed with youthful good looks and good ol’ boy charm, he is a natural showman with a deep, melodious voice to match. Although the songs from his first album, 2012’s “Clear as Day,” won’t be winning any awards for originality anytime soon, they don’t have to; McCreery’s booming voice makes anything sound good. Songs that focused on the joys of small-town life came across as truly authentic instead of contrived – “Water Tower Town,” for instance, used images and video shot in his actual hometown of Garner, N.C – and the songs heralding young love and the excitement of being a teenager in the summer (“The Trouble With Girls,” “Sun Tan”) earned him the most screams of adoration from his young fans.
Some of McCreery’s strongest performances were covers of country classics, a few of which he sang during his 2011 “American Idol” ascent. “Check Yes or No” by George Strait, “Gone” by Montgomery Gentry, and “Papa Loves Mama” by Garth Brooks all exhibited his ability to hold his own with some of the biggest names in country music. He also performed bits from some older musical influences, such as Conway Twitty, Johnny Cash and even Elvis Presley.
Although McCreery largely kept things fast-paced and fun, he also showed his tender side with a touching cover of Jamey Johnson’s “In Color” and a duet with opener Sarah Darling of “The Dance.”
Darling was a great opening act choice for McCreery. Her cookie-cutter love songs and long blonde hair set her up to be the next Taylor Swift, but her voice has an attractive, slightly raspy edge to it, something that sets her apart from most sugary, teenybopper country singers. She showed off that depth and range in a surprising, well-done cover of Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep.”
“That’s a great voice, and she’s cute,” a woman in front of me confided to a friend. “She’ll do well.” Couldn’t have said it better myself.