Cole Swindell received an electric welcome on his return to Madison, Wis., on March 17. Greeted by a sold-out, St. Patrick’s Day crowd who were ready to party at the historic Orpheum Theater. The last time he played Madison, he was playing a free show in June 2014 to a much smaller crowd. It’s safe to say that this his star has risen–and he’s on the verge of becoming country’s next big artist. No surprise considering his successful songwriting credits prior to his breakout.
A five-piece band took the stage and Swindell rose up from under the stage singing the mid-tempo anthem “Down Home Boys.” Swindell quickly paced across the stage donning a smile the entire time. He exclaimed to the crowd, “I’ve been waiting to get back to Wisconsin and not too long ago we played at the Red Rock Saloon. It was my favorite crowd ever!” The crowd erupted and he continued to keep the packed house rocking with “Brought to You By Beer,” giving way to a salute of half-empty beer cups from the general admission floor.
Swindell shared he had penned songs for Thomas Rhett and Luke Bryan, then noted “Sometimes you gotta keep one for yourself.” He then segued into the song that jump-started his career, “Chillin’ It,” as the floor swayed with the music. A young woman had trouble containing her excitement–she jumped on stage to dance with Swindell during “Dozen Roses & A Six-Pack” until she was removed by security.
He continued with “Let Me See Ya Girl” before transitioning back to his humble beginning–when he sang cover songs in Georgia Southern University bars. He reflected on those times before performing Tim McGraw’s “Real Good Man” and Kenny Chesney’s “Don’t Happen Twice.” Swindell acknowledged the pumped crowd and proclaimed, “I’ll tell you what, nights like this don’t happen twice!” He then played, “My favorite song I’ve written for someone else,” former frat-brother Luke Bryan’s hit “Roller Coaster.”
Swindell rounded out his 16-song set with “Kiss” and “Hope You Get Lonely Tonight,” that kept the crowd singing along until the very end. He returned for an encore that had the few fans, who had prematurely headed to the exits, to reverse course when they heard the opening notes of his current hit, “You Should Be Here.” Its heart-wrenching video, a tribute to the memory of his father, played in the background. He led the packed house in singing the chorus one last time. Almost. The fans weren’t finished and continued to repeat the chorus while an overwhelmed Swindell absorbed the moment. He quickly joined in the mood, exclaiming, “We’re here to party!” before closing out the night with a few more songs.
Newly-signed artist Adam Craig opened the show at 8:00 p.m. and played a 40-minute set to prime the young crowd. Similar to Swindell, Craig is an accomplished singer-songwriter. His credits include co-writing Jason Aldean’s “Church Pew or Bar Stool,” Parmalee’s “Close Your Eyes,” and Love and Theft’s “Whiskey on My Breath.” Craig’s debut album is due later this spring.