Review and Photos by: Jr Wyatt

Rolling through the Forest City for an evening of some rockin’ country music was Brantley Gilbert’s Hell On Wheels Tour.  The lineup consisted of country artists Brian Davis, Greg Bates, Uncle Kracker and the headliner himself, Brantley Gilbert.  The building was nowhere close to being full, but that did not stop the crowd from their loud screams and cheers as Brian Davis took the stage to start the evening.  With his strong country vocals, the show was off to a great start.  His set was only fifteen minutes long, but it was very rewarding to hear. It was long enough to warm up the crowd. It was a reminder to always pay attention to opening acts as well, they have surprise you.

The evening got even better as Greg Bates took stage. I was not really familiar with Greg Bates’ work so I really did not know what to expect. After a couple of songs, I was pleasantly surprised by his performance on stage. One of the few songs he played was “Did It For the Girl,” which was well received by the concertgoers as well as myself.  When he stopped his set to discuss the song “Brothers” and the meaning behind it, I was anxiously awaiting to hear it. It was great, it is a song that leaves an impression on you. By the crowd’s reaction, it left an impression on them as well. With the performances put on by both Brian Davis and Greg Bates, it was back-to-back talented musicians who were well-received by the fans.

Next up, Uncle Kracker. As he walked out to the stage, the crowd went nuts.  With the amount of screaming, one would think the venue was packed with tens of thousands of fans.  He then went to work with hits such as “Smile,” “Follow Me,” and “Drift Away.” If there is one word I would use to describe Uncle Kracker’s live performance it would be: Amazing! The energy was there, the interaction with the crowd was a hit, and what was about to happen next made the night even better. Uncle Kracker slowed down the set with a story about getting a call from Kenny Rogers. Next thing you know, he started singing to the tunes of “Coward of the County,” one Rogers’ classic tunes.  It was something special; the fans loved it and sang along with him as Uncle Kracker performed. He ended his set with “Nobody’s Sad On A Saturday Night,” one of the songs on his new album titled Midnight Special, due November 20, 2012.

Finally, the headliner of the evening, Brantley Gilbert, took stage for the screaming fans as the BMO Harris Bank Center erupted!  By now, the venue was packed.  With Brian Davis, Greg Bates and Uncle Kracker warming up the fans, it was gametime! The fans were anxious for him to start the show, and so was I as this would be my first time seeing Brantley Gilbert perform live.  With the looks of a rock star with a rockin’ country sound, he was great! The outlaw feel to his show made it even better.  Once a songwriter with hits such as Jason Aldean’s “My Kinda Party” and Colt Ford’s “Dirt Road Anthem,” this was his time to shine.  He was able to work the crowd with his fiery vocals and his ability to rock the guitar.  Knowing that it is hard for any musician to capture the Rockford crowd, I was curious to see if Brantley Gilbert could pull it off. Could his first time rolling through Rockford be a success? With the sounds of the crowd singing along to “Kick It In The Sticks” and “You Don’t Know Her Like I Do,” I was very impressed.  The energy Brantley Gilbert possesses on stage is a must see for any rockin’ country fan out there. His performance was nothing less of spectacular.  Fans were treated to an evening of great tunes by four amazing acts, could it end with a big bang?  I will say yes, it definitely ended with a big bang.