The Country Throwdown spectacular rolled into Saratoga Springs over the Memorial Day weekend, as concert promoters Live Nation partnered with powerhouse country radio station WGNA-FM to launch the 2010 Saratoga Performing Arts Center summer season in style.
And what a launch it was: Three different stages were going strong simultaneously with the country music-vibe wrapped in a bit of rock ‘n’ roll all day long. Hey, keep in mind that Elvis may have been the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, but he was also a Nashville cat, and country music was at the heart of all his songs – even when they rocked.
The Outlaw Stage featured the vocal prowess of drop-dead gorgeous Emily West, who was backed by Jonathan Singleton’s outfit, the Grove. After her blistering set, Singleton took the stage and set the audience on fire, as they danced to his unique brand of country-rock.
Singleton is rapidly climbing up the country music ladder of success, having co-written Billy Currington’s “Don’t,” as well as penning hits for David Nail (“Red Light”) and Josh Turner (“Why Don’t We Just Dance”).
Capping off the parade of performances on the Outlaw Stage was the dynamic Heidi Newfield. She wailed on the harmonica and sang her way into the hearts of everyone in the huge crowd that gathered in front of the stage. Her magnificent set was drawn primarily from her debut album, “What Am I Waiting For?”
Nearby, the Bluebird Café’s tent featured several round-robin sessions of prominent, up-and-coming singer-songwriters, including the handsome Walker Hayes and the lovely Heather Morgan. During the evening hours of the Throwdown, many of the Bluebird Café performers grabbed a few moments in the spotlight on the main amphitheater stage, as well. Introduced by WGNA’s Jake Thomas, the singer-songwriters performed between the headliners, allowing the road crews time to set up each upcoming act.
Once the afternoon festivities were wrapped up on the two satellite stages, all attention was focused on the big amphitheater stage, which boasted performances by Capitol recording star Eric Church, the reigning purveyors of ’70s country-rock Little Big Town and the old-time country sounds of Jamey Johnson, complete with audience sing-alongs and the spirit of Hank Williams looking on.
However, most of the thousands of fans in the audience were waiting for mega-hit headliners Montgomery Gentry. The dynamic duo of Eddie Montgomery and Troy Gentry have racked up seven Top 10 albums and more than 20 hit singles – including “Lucky Man” and “Something To Be Proud Of” – since they teamed up together in the ’80s.
The huge tarp draped from end-to-end on the stage, and when it dropped into a sea of applause, whistles and shouts of excitement, Montgomery exploded onto the SPAC stage with an amazing set to conclude Country Throwdown.
With Live Nation booking more and more country acts into SPAC – next up is Sugarland, who roll in on Friday, June 11 with Luke Bryan and Danny Gokey – who knows? Maybe Country Throwdown could become an annual SPAC event.
Review and photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk.
See a whole lot more of Andrzej’s photos from this day at the Nippertown Photo Archive.