SCHENECTADY – “How the hell do we follow THAT?” asked Parmalee singer Matt Thomas after David Nail’s big voiced heartbreaker “Let It Rain” at Proctors on Wednesday.
The Carolina quartet managed nicely with the smoochy “Close Your Eyes,” alternating tunes with Nail in the guitar-pull-format hour-long first set of WGNA’s Secret Star Acoustic Jam. In the second, Dustin Lynch and The Band Perry played unbroken, 30-minute crowd-pleasing sets.
The “Secret”? Nobody in the packed house knew who’d play until they started, but jokey Q&A’s by WGNA jocks with the offstage artists offered big hints. “Acoustic”? No electric guitars; both Nail and Lynch played with just a second guitarist and percussion player in stripped-down trios, Parmalee and The Band Perry at full strength. No “Jam,” either: nobody sat in, but the Parmalee guys sang quietly off-mic at times with Nail.
The Nail-Parmalee set balanced well in a kind of cumulative pacing across their strengths. Nail went deep with slow-burn opener “Catherine” and “Good at Tonight,” and Parmalee partied with “Day Drinkin’” – they favor this – and “Musta Had a Good Time,” marveling at morning-after damages, based on after-party carnage at their small-town farm. But Nail revved up “Nights on Fire” and Parmalee downshifted in “Roots” and “Carolina;” so both acts showed off good range.
In wide hat and camo-T, Lynch played the crowd perfectly, pulling us to our feet with “Hell of a Night,” dividing us into shout-choruses yelling “HELL-yeah!” or wordless howls. He really settled into “Mind Reader,” the song he said had showed him his true sound, and “Cowboys and Angels,” his grandparents’ love-story. But he mostly rocked and rolled.
So did The Band Perry. Everybody jumped up as Sean McMaster introduced them, and few sat during their full-tilt rocking blitz, bursting with sing-alongs and more jumping. A drummer and two acoustic guitarists – one doubled on keyboards and banjo/guitar – played behind star siblings Kim (vocals), Reid (bass) and Neil (resonator mandolin and eight-string resonator guitar) Perry.
They would have sounded way more pop than country – more like Heart, Pat Benatar or Eurythmics than fellow-Alabaman Hank Williams – even if they hadn’t mashed-up Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams Are Made of This” with Sammy Hagar’s “You Make Me Crazy” and Justin Timberlake’s “SexyBack.” First, they exploded the defiant, love-desperate “Better Dig Two,” then declared themselves a “Comeback Kid,” a very necessary rocking claim, their first single in a year when their country-cred has been questioned. They rocked uptempo throughout, earning big sing-alongs in “Bed of Roses” and their climactic crunchy “Done,” then left the stage as their band vamped hot.
If Nail, Parmalee and Lynch seemed scaled to county-fair stages, The Band Perry packed arena-rock punch. Only Parmalee explained the meaning of their songs; the others spoke of them as products, hits that changed their own lives, but didn’t relate them at all to the crowd’s except in thanks for a success that united them.