“I’m so excited to see you,” yelled a woman in the crowd after the second surprise country star onstage at Proctors was revealed to be tall, red-bearded Texan Eric Paslay.
Although the Secret Star Acoustic Jam, hosted by local country radio station WGNA, may not bring massive stars of Kenny Chesney or Blake Shelton fame, it succeeds at bringing high-quality performers with major hits to their names.
This year was no different. The show sold out in only a few hours, said a WGNA host onstage.
And each of the four “secret” stars – whose identities were only revealed after WGNA personalities teased them out with a set of clues – was received with exuberant cheers by the young crowd, who jammed the bar lines before the show and filled the historic theater with a buzzing excitement.
In addition to Paslay, “American Idol” winner Scott McCreery, in-demand Nashville singer-songwriter David Lee Murphy, and Florida Georgia Line college buddy Russell Dickerson took turns playing acoustic versions of their songs in a round-robin format.
Of the four, Paslay – revealed to be an expert home remodeler in the clues offered up by WGNA – brought an energy level that was hard to top.
Dressed in work pants and a baseball cap, he kicked off his first of five songs with “Friday Night,” a song he co-wrote that was a hit for country group Lady Antebellum. The crowd transformed the radio-friendly party anthem about wide-open roads and summertime sunshine into an instant clap-along.
Paslay also scored with “She Don’t Love You,” a country heartbreaker originally written for George Strait that was a fan request; his newest single, the bittersweet “Young Forever”; and the powerful “Less than Whole.”
“This is a beautiful theater,” Paslay said, pausing to praise the historic 1926 venue. “I’m so proud y’all didn’t tear it down.”
Although a bit more understated on stage, singer-songwriter David Lee Murphy brought an unmatched set of songs, including country radio staples “Dust on the Bottle” and “Party Crowd.”
There were also hits he has written for some of the biggest names in country music, including “The More I Drink” (Blake Shelton) and “Big Green Tractor” (Jason Aldean). His latest, last year’s “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright,” is a collaboration with Kenny Chesney.
Murphy spent the day exploring area attractions with Bob Reeves, a Scotia-native from his record company, he said onstage. “I got the hometown tour. I got the king cheese steak from Morette’s. I ate it all. And the fries and onion rings.”