Rising country superstar Kane Brown opens ACL Season 45

There are no two ways about it: 25 year-old Kane Brown is contemporary country’s fastest rising star, as well as the first country singer to have a number one single on all five Billboard country charts. We here at Austin City Limits love hosting talented newcomers, so we were happy to welcome the Georgia native as the first taping of Season 45, with a live streamed set of hits and deep cuts from his pair of albums.

Following executive producer Terry Lickona’s opening remarks, Brown joined his band onstage and wasted no time jumping right into “Baby Come Back to Me,” the rocking opening cut from his hit album Experiment. The singer followed with his first number one hit, the equally rock-oriented “What Ifs”.  Brown and the band changed the mood with “Weekend,” a mellow party tune that incorporated a R&B vibe. “This song is my baby – it got my life started,” he stated by way of introduction to the ballad “Used to Love You Sober,” the song he posted online that got him his record deal, and a tune with which the audience sang along. From one of his oldest to his most recent: the devotional country soul of “Good As You” proved why it was poised to be his next hit, especially given the crowd’s eager participation.

Biracial and raised by a single mother, Brown detailed being subjected to bullying, racism and abuse as a child, before launching into the mid-tempo “Learning,” a song about letting go of the negativity of the past. Appropriately, that tune led into “American Bad Dream,” a tough country rocker about school shootings. Every band-member except keyboardist Cameron Pessarra and fiddler Lars Thorson left the stage, as Brown took a seat for the self-explanatory ballad “Homesick,” dedicated to those serving overseas. Guitarist Jimmie Deeghan replaced Pessarra for “Work,” a tune literally about the hard work it takes to make a relationship – a topic near to the heart of the freshly wed Brown. Piano switched out for guitar once again for another ballad, the passionate “Live Forever.”

The band retook the stage to dispel the serious mood with the slide guitar-slathered “Short Skirt Weather,” kickstarting the party vibe again. The guitar-heavy “Found You” followed, leading into the thundering Southern rock chug of “Pull It Off.” Brown then re-incorporated the audience into the show, engaging in a call-and-response chorus with the romantic hit “Heaven.” Brown ended the show with the anthemic “Lose It,” exiting the stage to wild applause as his band continued to rock. It was a crowd-pleasing show, and we can’t wait for you to see it when it airs this fall on your local PBS station.