Blake Shelton was at his smooth-voiced, wisecracking best when he headlined the 13th annual Stars for Second Harvest show at the Ryman Auditorium, Tuesday night, June 6. The concert benefiting Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee was hosted by prolific songwriter Craig Wiseman, the driving force behind the event, and presented by O’Charley’s with Nissan North America as Stage Sponsor.
The always-entertaining Shelton closed the show following dynamic performances from Wiseman and the Warren Brothers, along with solo acts Chris Lane and John Rich. From the raucous, extended ovations as he entered the Ryman stage, it was clearly apparent that Shelton was the man that fans came to see. The multiple CMA Award winner and celebrity judge on NBC’s “The Voice” didn’t disappoint, mixing some of his biggest hits with his trademark humor.
Before he kicked off his set, Shelton took a moment to praise Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee, which works to solve hunger issues in the community. “This literally makes a difference in people’s lives,” he told the packed house. “I mean, this is a bigger deal than a good cause. So thank you guys so much for being here and supporting it.” Shelton opened with one of his earliest hits, 2002’s “Ol’ Red.”
It’s often noted that the measure of a true entertainer is the ability to captivate an audience armed with only your vocals and an acoustic guitar. Shelton held the house in his capable hands, despite his self-deprecating admission that, “I’m a terrible guitar player.” It was a much too modest assessment, as he fared just fine accompanying himself on his litany of hits.
“If you’re gonna do country music at the Ryman,” Shelton declared, “you have to do a drinking song.” At that, he breezed into the Latin-flavored “Sangria.” During the set, audience members shouted out requests, fueling Shelton’s flair for spontaneous humor. “Either I don’t know my own songs or I can’t understand a [darn] thing you’re saying,” he quipped. He then launched into his No. 1 smash “Some Beach.”
Shelton also brought a special guest to the stage, “The Voice” contestant Lauren Duski, who joined Blake on “There’s a Tear in My Beer.” He noted that this was one of Duski’s first national performances outside of “The Voice” series, and she displayed a strong, country credible vocal. Shelton closed with the rowdy crowd-pleaser “Boys ‘Round Here” accompanied by Wiseman, who co-wrote the No. 1 hit.
Wiseman, one of Music City’s more colorful citizens, served as congenial host and kept the show moving along. His opening set with the Warren Brothers, Brad and Brett, got the show off to a fun and song-filled start. The three occasionally shared the stories behind their best-known singles.
Wiseman recalled the day he co-wrote Kenny Chesney’s No. 1 song “Summertime” before launching into his rendition. Brett Warren introduced the runaway hit they penned for Toby Keith with an anecdote. “Toby said, ‘That’s the dumbest song I’ve ever heard. Play it again!’” Warren remembered. He and brother Brad then segued into “Red Solo Cup,” with the audience singing along with mass enthusiasm. Wiseman performed Shelton’s current single “Every Time I Hear That Song” and wrapped with the masterpiece he co-wrote for Tim McGraw, “Live Like You Were Dying.”
Rising new star Chris Lane had the crowd swaying to his hit “Fix” and new tune “Let Me Love You.” John Rich evoked the memory of Johnny Cash as he lit into a rendition of “Ring of Fire,” accompanying himself on a black guitar. The singer/songwriter included a couple of hits from the Big & Rich duo catalog, “Lost in This Moment” and the rowdy, fun-loving single, “Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy),” which brought the crowd up and cheering.
As always, the big winner of the evening was Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee. This year’s show brought in $170,000, and an additional $30,000 was raised through O’Charley’s customers who donated to Second Harvest. That brings the total to $1.2 million raised for Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee over the 13-year period.
“Every year I am amazed by the generosity of some of the biggest stars in country music who give their time to play our show and to the country music fans who year after year show up and give their hard-earned money for such a great cause,” said Wiseman after the concert. “It is a blessing to work alongside our generous sponsors O’Charley’s and Nissan to touch the lives of so many who struggle to find a meal.”