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not Country Bieber nor Country Mayer….Hunter Hayes is Hunter Hayes

Written by Ken Murdock

Girls start screaming and running towards the stage as Hunter Hayes steps into the spot light and counts the band in with his acoustic guitar in hand. 1 2 3 and just like that music fills the air as the sun is setting in the distance reflecting off the lake behind Hunter Hayes. The stars will be out soon, but non will shine as brightly tonight, in Orange County, as Hunter will. 8,000 plus have come to this private association for the Summer Concert Series at Lake Mission Viejo in South Orange County on a gorgeous California day. Life here does not suck. Luckily I am a local guy and know plenty of people so I dropped in last minute and ran into friends all over the place. Thanks for the beers Fleck.

“Love Makes Me”
This song is a good time jam and great way to kick off his set of the concert. There are a ton more high pitched screams from his young adoring fans. Their parents all look at each other like parents do, but it is them that will be singing his praises out loud by the end of the night.

“Let’s do this!” “Having fun so far?”
Are the few words he shares with the crowd. He wants to get down. He bounces up and down with all his youthful exuberance pouring from him onto the stage and spilling into the audience. It’s everywhere and it’s infectious.

“Light me up”
Girls whistle like construction workers with hoots and I LOVE YOUs to the stage.

“I love you too.” Hunter responds with the flash of a smile. They go crazy. Like teenage girl CRAZY. You know what I mean.

“Don’t tell anybody else I said this, but this is one of the most beautiful place I’ve ever played in my life. I like all of you too.” I think I just saw a girl faint. “This is like my theme song.” She is okay and back up.

“Somebody’s Heartbreak”
Laid back tune with on old school kind of soul to it. How old is this kid? I’d swear he is 30 something. He wails away some blues licks on his electric for a quick solo. “Heart Break” he sings. Jams out to an abrupt stop. The lights go out. Screams. Lights pop on with the band in unison. He makes a gesture to the sound engineer in mid solo for adjustments and continues on with his fans non the wiser. Long ass outro jam! Sick. I’m sold now. That is my kind of stuff. The band is having a blast right now and so am I.

“I feel like when we loose something important that we all have a little faith to fall back on. ” says Hunter

“Faith to Fall Back On”
Kicks off the band with a rockin sound and one measure of sick guitar. Mutes and retuned his guitar in 5 second and comes back in with a Texas Blues lick to rejoin the band. Pro status. That happened so fast I’m sure that most people didn’t even notice.

No idea what they are playing but I like this song a lot. He has a lot of soul in his voice with blues tones that are fresh and clear unlike a seasoned gruff old blues man. He has a great sound. This kid likes being on stage and works with his band like a pro. I’m super impressed with him.

He introduces the band as they do an impromptu funk song. What is going on right now? That is funky bass.

Photo donated by Rob Germain. (a Mission Viejo dad)

Keys kick in with a slide down the ivory. Guitarist rips out a few licks before Hunter takes over the lead roll.


Say What???!!!!

Ok. He doesn’t suck…..Thank God. Please don’t mess with this song if you can’t own it. He is owning this shit I’ve seen Stevie Wonder perform this song and it is a classic tune that requires some attitude and confidence. Nuff said.

The crowd digs it too and now the parents have risen to their feet to dance and sing along. “Writings on the wall…..” They are now converted.

This is a good old fashioned jam session taking turns soloing. Proof positive…..He Rocks!

Photo donated by Rob Germain. (a Mission Viejo dad)

“I got a phone call. Will you write a song for a movie? Not just any movie but Act of Valor. I now have a deeper appreciation for the men and women that serve for this country. And if you have or any of your family members have served….this is for you.” he says with the reverence rarely expressed from the youth of America these days.

“Where We Left Off”
His fingers tickle the ivories and he starts to sing. The drums kick in and the band fills in the open space. They build the song up and hands are waving from side to side. The kids have all abandoned their seats to move closer to the stage as the adults relax in their lawn chairs. This is pretty song and Hunter demonstrates his skills on the piano with ease. I think I just saw a grown man cry.

“Its about time I play I love song. Thank you guys and country radio. It’s on the charts cause of you and it’s my second single.”

The girls all scream. What a way to start a good song. With screams. He is loving every second of this on stage, but live doesn’t waste a single second longer. The middle of the lawn is lit up behind me by cameras flashing to the screams of delight and huge cheers of joy. A cowboy on his knees with hat off has gotten the answer he wanted. Yes!! Looks like love is in the air and local wedding plans too as their friend surrounding them got photos & video. Hunter Hayes has no idea the perfect setting he has just provided, Kevin Garrett and his friends in cahoots, for the ideal engagement proposal to Joanna Howell. He just keeps on playing in back drop of the video that signifies the love of soon to be Mr. & Mrs. Garrett. Congratulations you two. It was a pleasure to talk to you both after the concert. Down the Road Show wishes for you a happy union full of Country Lovin. I love love. Oblivious, Hunter ends the song to thousands of screams. That section of the lawn is the last to be heard. Cool moment.

“Let’s have some fun.” he shouts to the audience. Oh we are. “I love you” can be heard from all corners of the beach. He gives the appropriate response followed by girls swooning.

“Gotta keep your head up Whooooaaaooh!” he sings with the crowd working from one of side of the stage to the other. He set aside the instruments to really let loose singing. He is hitting notes that he has not reached for so far. He’s nailing them. Flawless.

“Change it up.” he says to his band.

“Lean on me.” The funkiest version of that song I have ever heard. This band is tight. They switched songs on a dime and then stopped the song even faster. How old is this kid? Seriously, I may hate him a little right now.

His acoustic is back in hand. “I hope you guys have had as much fun as I have tonight. I’m in no rush. No rush to leave. This place is awesome.” he is being completely genuine. Lake Mission Viejo is a great venue. “Can I do at least one more song. I’ll play all night but I’m just asking for permission. This next song is about a girl. For some reason people think its about the weather.” and he’s funny. Ok…’s official…..I hate him. (out of love and respect)

“Storm Warning”
This is a great song and holy shit he is setting that acoustic on fire in his hands. Good thing he is creating his own storm on stage to put out the fire. The sound permeates through your soul and just makes you move. Happiness. Yep that’s it. He points to the sky and trills off his vocals then the band crashes back in like thunder. He is soaking up every minute he can. Lightning crashes in his fans eyes and fills the night sky with a storm warning to Mission Viejo. We are here to Rock with Hunter! I do love this song. Such smart lyrics and the melody is light and uplifting. The live version is far more entertaining than I expected and much more musically accurate to the radio version……all from a 5 piece band. Wow!

He thanks the crowd and disappears off the side of the stage to a private boat floating behind the stage, but they refuse to leave (fans and Hunter). They know it’s not past the noise ordinance curfew time yet in this town. They already know this drill.

He appears out of the darkness, “Can we play a little longer?”

“If you know this sing along.” he prompts us.

“Amazing Just the Way You Are” By Bruno Mars”
Who doesn’t know this song. Not sure cause everybody is singing with him. Adults included. “I see your face”….Man can he work the neck of that acoustic guitar. So clean. I am in awe of this kid right now. He is bouncing up and down like “Tigger” again. (From Winnie the Pooh) The band gives us a long jam filled with rock, blues, and country sounds. They are crazy good and aren’t showing off……They’re just having a blast.

“Love you guys. God bless you.” are his last words.

Now we can all leave, except for the 150 or so girls that stayed to the very end, the lake and the over all feeling is that we are all glad we came out tonight. Hunter Hayes pleased his old fans and just gained a bunch of new fans. You know…..the ones that give his old (young) fans their $. I know I just bought it.

Just hand him a Grammy! I’m just saying. This kid is not the Country Justin Bieber nor is he the Country John Mayer. Hunter Hayes puts them both to shame.



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K.C. Murdock

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Ken Murdock

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