With vocals that challenge the audibly low and bellowing roars of thunder, American country singer Josh Turner opens his mouth to sing and creates a musical storm.
Following opening act Bailey Bryan, Turner made a striking entrance on the H. Ric Luhrs Performing Arts Center stage on Thursday. As the background parted to reveal his silhouette, the spotlight followed each step toward the center stage microphone that he took — prompting shrill screams of excitement from the audience.
Turner dove right into song, and the audience was unbothered by this decision. Rather, they were thrilled.
Starting off his set list, Turner serenaded the audience with “Deep South,” “Everything is Fine” and “Me And God.”
Turner put his acoustic guitar to the side for the performance of hit song “Time is Love” from his 2012 album “Punching Bag.” With free hands, he made his rounds on stage and entertained the audience with subtle dance moves that complimented his vocals and emphasized the pure enjoyment he was having on stage.
After a week-long break from touring for a trip to Disney with his children, Turner confessed to the audience that he felt a little rusty while performing. However, his vocals and his band’s instrumental accompaniment were remarkably clean. If Turner truly thought that his performance was rusty, it would be unearthly to see what he could possibly do on stage with ample rehearsal.
What sent Turner’s performance bubbling over the top was the audience’s excitement that was rooted in his continuous effort to connect with the audience. Turner prioritized tailoring the concert experience to the Shippensburg crowd, and rather than strictly sticking to the script and choreography, he improvised based on feedback from the audience.
“So we’re playing for a hometown crowd, and if I’m not mistaken I see some hometown girls out there,” Turner said before dedicating his popular song “Hometown Girl” from his most recent album to all the Shippensburg hometown girls in attendance. Many hometown girls, and even some proud hometown guys, chanted along with the lyrics of the hometown anthem.
While Turner incorporated popular songs from previous records throughout his performance, he particularly pushed the songs from his most recent album “Deep South” to cultivate fan interest. However, he treated his old hit songs such as “Long Black Train,” with the same care as his new music.
Fans anticipated the performance of “Long Black Train” throughout the night, to the extent that some chanted “Long Black Train” between song transitions in an attempt convince Turner to sing the song earlier in the set list. Chanters failed to achieve a premature performance of “Long Black Train,” but the wait was well worth it for many since Turner delivered with force.
With a single bulb of luminosity parting entire darkness, smoke swirling in the light and a distinctive whistle screeching through surround-sound speakers, the stage became a train. Turner appeared through the line of light and thrilled the audience with his chest-rattling vocals.
With an abundance of high energy carrying over from the extravagant “Long Black Train” performance, nearly everyone rose from their seats to strike their hands together to the beat and croon along to Turner’s closing song, “Would You Go With Me.”
Consumed with last-song woes, some fans ran from their seats to the apron of the stage to cheer Turner on and obtain a closer view for the last few moments.
As Turner sang the chorus lyrics, “If I gave you my hand would you take it and make me the happiest man in the world,” he reached out and touched the hands of fans lining the edge of the stage — and the happiness was contagious.