Being that country radio is currently mostly male dominated, there is simply not enough exposure to the delicacy of female voices on the airwaves. Thanks to CMT, that’s about to change, as they promote more balance through rising female artists. On May 8, 2015, CMT brought its first ever ladies only tour, Next Women of country tour, to Joe’s Bar in Chicago, IL for the fourth stop of ten across the nation this spring. Co-headlining the inaugural tour are rising stars Kelsea Ballerini and Jana Kramer.
Kicking off the night with her playful, energetic song, “Yeah Boy” was Black River Entertainment recording artist, Kelsea Ballerini. Less than two weeks away from the release of her debut album The First Time, Kelsea enchanted the crowd with previews of the highly anticipated album’s tracks. One song that stood out was “Peter Pan” in which she figures out that her love interest is really just a boy playing games, and likens him to Peter Pan, “You’re never going to learn there’s no such place as Neverland”. Being that she has been a singer/songwriter since age 13, Kelsea expressed her sincerest gratitude and humble disbelief that so many people were actually singing along to her songs.
Ballerini engaged constantly with the crowd and as she addressed fans, she held her teal guitar and told us the story behind her title track on her upcoming album “The First Time”. She had been stood up for a date with a guy that she should have, in her words, “shut and locked the door Monster’s Inc. style” the first time. Turning that around, she said if someone would have told her two years ago when she was sitting on that front porch step crying over a boy, that she’d be singing about it on stage at Joe’s Bar, then she would have felt differently and that she wants to be an encouragement to anyone going through a similar situation! Before the final chorus, Kelsea sang the chorus to Keith Urban’s “Stupid Boy” and then finished the song, leaving the audience captivated and optimistic.
Changing the mood completely, a dance party erupted at a clever mashup of late 90’s pop including Nsync, Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears and Beyoncé. The girl can work a stage! She rolled into another original track, “Stiletto’s”, before closing out her set for the night with “Take a Bow” which was the inspiration for her current top 10 single Love Me Like You Mean It.
I have to admit that after hearing copious amounts of positive buzz, I had high expectations of Ms. Ballerini headed into this night, but she over-exceeded my expectations so highly that I was immediately compelled to stalk her tour dates and book the next local concert listed.
Heart thumping music (literally, it was so loud you felt it physically rattle your heart, in a GOOD way) infiltrated the room and Jana Kramer took the stage belting out “Boomerang”. “One Of The Boys” was next on her list and she didn’t waste any time spotting out a few males in the audience to serenade. It’s safe to say those men were completely enthralled by her!
It’s always a fun and unique experience when an artist debuts new music at a concert! All eyes and ears were on deck while Jana exercised her flawless pipes, belting out her brand new, girl’s night inspired song “Pop That Bottle”. As the crowd was highly pumped up, Jana softly sang Alanis Morissette’s “Ironic” with wind blowing her hair and a fiery attitude as the song progressed.
Kramer’s confidence as a Next Women of Country artist shined as she boldly performed a unique mashup of Man I Feel Like A Woman/Take Me To Church/Cool Kids/Pour Some Sugar On Me. At this moment, there was an impassioned feeling in the air. Women were proud to be women, and the men were THANKFUL for women! Way to bring your A game to Ladies night, Jana! Keeping that feeling alive, Kramer crooned “What I Love About Your Love” while she snapped selfies with fans throughout the song. Her ability to maintain vocal perfection while she engaged with the audience in selfies and hugs was incredible!
Before she became a country star, Jana was first an actress. One of her memorable roles was as a cast member of One Tree Hill, so she called out all the “Tree Hillers” and sang the song she wrote and performed on the show. “I Won’t Give Up” is a beautiful encouragement to be patient with the one you love, even if that means just being a friend. Keeping the positivity, Jana introduced “Love” and enthusiastically spoke about her upcoming wedding (in TWO WEEKS!) and encouraged everyone by saying that if there is one thing they take from this song, it’s to always believe in every type of love. Kramer said, “do something nice today, and every day, pay it forward and I promise you will feel love in return”. Wow! Sometimes it take a woman’s compassionate heart to ignite the same in others.
One song that really hits home for Jana is her latest single, “I Got The Boy” which she said reminds her of her high school sweetheart, Matthew. It’s a relatable song that weighs the differences in being someone’s first love or their last love and the benefits of each. In this case, Jana said she “got the boy”. As the night wound down, Kramer thanked the fans and country radio stations like US99.5 for making “Why You Wanna” a successful single, and delivered an anticipated performance. Jana said her goodbyes and just when we thought the night was over, there was a small break while adrenaline continued to build and she concluded the show powerfully with “I Dodge A Bullet” and a cover of “You Shook Me All Night Long”.
Thank you CMT, Joe’s Bar, US99.5, Kelsea Ballerini and Jana Kramer for An inspiring night of empowerment as a woman while bringing an unforgettable party to Chicago!