Luke Bryan’s Dirt Road Diaries Tour Brings the Party to Birmingham

Luke, Florida Georgia Line and Thompson Square rock Oak Mountain Amphitheater.

Photos by Ivor Karabatkovic

If you’re going to do a big tour with a party atmosphere, playing Birmingham, Ala., in July will oblige with some decidedly summer weather.

Such was the setting when Luke Bryan’s Dirt Road Diaries Tour, featuring guests Florida Georgia Line and Thompson Square, stopped at Birmingham’s vaunted outdoor venue Oak Mountain Amphitheater yesterday evening (July 11). With temperatures approaching 90, the heat index was nearer 100. No one seemed to mind, least of all Luke.

The burgeoning superstar was busy all day, from press interviews to a couple separate meet-and-greet events. Coming on the heels of celebrating the double-platinum status of his third album, Tailgates & Tanlines, and his recent Academy of Country Music Entertainer of the Year win, Luke felt excited about the timing of his first headlining tour.

“We had kind of tinkered with headlining last year. At the end of the day, I was just real excited to be out there all year with Jason [Aldean],” said Luke, relaxing on his tour bus. “Having Tailgates & Tanlines doing so well was really the perfect script for how I wanted the year to go. I knew coming into headlining that I wanted to do it at the right time, not screw up and go too early.”

Luke also picked up a few things from his buddy Jason and his consistent habits. “You learn as a headliner you really need to get a routine,” he remarked. “You need to sleep when you can get your sleep. You can go do a 30-to-40-minute set on two hours’ sleep, but now an hour-45-minute show four nights a week is a different animal, so you gotta take care of yourself a little better.”

Record-setting hitmakers Florida Georgia Line kicked the show off, rocking through a set that included “It’z Just What We Do,” “Round Here,” “Get Your Shine On” and their megahit “Cruise.” 

The incredibly stacked lineup continued with Thompson Square, who delivered hits “I Got You,” “Are You Gonna Kiss Me Or Not,” plus covers of Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down” and fun.’s “Some Nights.” After a poignant “Glass,” dedicated to the kids of their charity ChildFund International, Shawna and Keifer Thompson closed out with recent No.1 “If I Didn’t Have You.”

Keifer and Shawna pointed out that all three groups on the tour had won ACM awards earlier in the year. ‘It’s really kind of a perfect storm as far as a tour is concerned,” said Keifer before their performance. “Luke was toasting—after the ACMs and he toasted us and Florida Georgia Line—and he’s like, ‘Here’s to me for picking the right acts for my tour!’”

“[It’s] pretty amazing that all of us won an ACM that night,” added Shawna, who was happy to be back in her home state. “Everybody’s kicking butt. You can’t ask for a better thing.”

For the main event, Luke came out to the booming sounds of Flo Rida and a visually simulated electrical storm on his backdrop. Opener “Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye” got the crowd on its feet, and the screams—particularly from the women—were deafening.

After his current hit, “Crash My Party,” Luke played “That’s My Kind of Night” from his upcoming album, Crash My Party. With its strutting rhythm, heavy guitars and shout-along chorus, it felt like a winner.

Luke also brought his supporting acts back out for a special covers section, first FGL on Maroon 5’s “One More Night” and then Thompson Square joined the ensemble for Bruno Mars’ “Locked Out of Heaven.”

There was also a stripped-down “pickin’-and-grinnin’” section with acoustic instruments and a Christmas tree with blue lights. The audience was treated to “Too Damn Young” and new tune “Dirt Road Diary,” as well as a cover of the Commodores’ “Easy.”

The guitar figure from AC/DC’s “Hells Bells” led into Luke’s debut single, “All My Friends Say,” which morphed into Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” with bar band-like virtuosity. 

For the encore, Luke brought out (what else?) “I Don’t Want This Night to End,” because no one did, and then took it home with “Country Girl (Shake It for Me).”

And boy, did they ever.

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