Canaan Smith has been tirelessly touring the country for the last year. I have had the chance to see him perform two acoustic shows in my hometown in the last five months. Both times he brought guitar player Stephen Whitfield with him and they did an outstanding job. As much as I enjoyed the acoustic performances, I was interested to see what he could do with a full band and stage show. When I found out his first ever solo tour was coming to Oklahoma, I was determined to go.
Smith brought his Stompin’ Grounds Tour to C.W. Scooters, a country dance hall in Lawton, OK. I had the privilege of sitting in on his VIP set where he gave the fans an up-close-and-personal performance of three acoustic songs and then posed for pictures and signed autographs. He was extremely excited about the show and couldn’t wait for us to see it. He mentioned that he had to scale it down a little because the stage was smaller, but he was beaming with pride about the set, the lights and the band. The enthusiasm for the tour and for the opportunity to perform that night was all over his face and made me even more eager to see the show.
The very energetic Russell Dickerson started off the night performing several songs including his current single “Yours.” He even jumped into the crowd and sang his version of Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” and the women in the crowd obliged. By the end of his set, the crowd of just over 400 people was amped up and ready for Canaan Smith to take the stage.
As the lights went down, Imagine Dragons’ “Roots” began playing as an ode to the “Stompin’ Grounds” theme of the tour. Off to the side of the stage we could see the band members bouncing around to the beat of the music and getting pumped up for the show. Once Smith took the stage it was high voltage energy for the next 90 minutes. He started off with his current single “Hole in a Bottle” and half way through invited two people on stage with him — an idea he no doubt borrowed from Dierks Bentley whom he toured with this summer. Bentley typically invites a fan on stage to shotgun a beer but Smith changed it up and invited his participants to do a shot with him. The crowd loved it and it set the party mood for the whole night.
Throughout the night Smith played his entire Bronco album including “Two Lane Road,” “Good Kinda Bad,” “Stompin’ Grounds,” and “Love at First” – a song he told us is about how someone’s true colors come out after dating someone for a while. He also included “Fire” and “Getting Into” which are the two additional songs on the deluxe version of Bronco. During “Mad Love,” he was completely wrapped up in the music and sang with his soul about the kind of relationship Johnny and June Carter Cash had.
The best part of the night came when they played “American Muscle.” This is probably my favorite song of Smith’s and the band rocked it out. The whole crowd was dancing around to the high intensity song and at the end Smith raised a huge American flag and waved it back and forth. I’m not sure if he knew this or not, but Lawton is the home of Fort Sill Army Base, so there were many military personnel in the audience. Once he raised that flag, the whole crowd started chanting “U-S-A!” It was incredible!
Smith followed that up by heading to a small stage at the back of the room and singing an acoustic version of his album’s title track, “Bronco.” The people in the audience swayed back and forth as they listened to him pour out his heart in honor of his brother who he lost in a car accident as a child. On his way back to the main stage he started his rendition of The Police’s “Every Breath You Take” while opening act Russell Dickerson joined him and mixed in a rap portion from Puff Daddy’s “I’ll Be Missing You” hybrid of the original song. Smith left the stage and then came back for the encore asking “Did I forget something?” Of course he did, and every person in the place came alive and sang out each word of Smith’s No. 1 song “Love You Like That.”
What I find most impressive about Canaan Smith is his ability to take a small dance hall and treat it like it was a 15,000 seat arena. From the impressive light show, to the energy on stage of both he and his band, to moving to the back of the room so everyone got a chance to see him better, his show was top-notch. It didn’t matter if you knew the songs or not, it was completely entertaining from start to finish and there was never a lull like some concerts have. Once Smith finishes up this solo tour he won’t have much of a break before he goes out with Brantley Gilbert and Michael Ray for The Blackout Tour in early 2016. Smith’s momentum just keeps building and it won’t be long before he is playing sold out arenas as a headliner. If his show on an arena stage is anything like what I saw, it will be an incredible experience you won’t want to miss.