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Chase Rice brings the heat on stage at the Stroh

Chase Rice performs at the Stroh Wednesday night

Country music savant Chase Rice brought his Back To College Tour to the Stroh Center Wednesday night. He brought along 14-year-old Matthew Pinkham and Ryan Hurd to warm the stage up before he went on around 9 p.m.

The concert was presented by the campus group UAO, who sold out all of the available floor tickets and several of the seated tickets.

Before performing the first set of the night, Matthew Pinkham thanked the University for the hat he was given back stage and announced that this was his first time performing on the Back To College Tour. Pinkham engaged the older college audience by playing a medley of popular songs that included Justin Bieber’s “Boyfriend,” American Authors’ “Best Day of My Life,” Shawn Mendes’ “Stitches” and Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror.” He also performed a few songs from his forthcoming EP titled “Me Without You.”

After a brief moment to adjust the stage set-up Ryan Hurd followed Pinkham. Hurd is a resident of Kalamazoo and has written songs for Tim McGraw, Blake Shelton and Rascal Flatts. Hurd’s set got the crowd moving with a mix of songs off his latest EP “Panorama,” he especially connected with the crowd with his passionate song “Drunk People.” He brought a fiery attitude to One Direction’s “Steal My Girl,” and made the song grittier than the original.

Shortly after Hurd finished, Rice appeared on stage full of energy and started his set with a high-energy performance of his song “How She Rolls.” The event was alcohol free and Rice (a passionate Jack Daniel’s fan) was a bit fazed at first to preform to a sober audience, but he challenged his fans to have just as much fun as they would have at a concert that allows alcoholic beverages.

Before he found his niche in country music, Rice played college football for the University of North Carolina and was a runner-up on the television series Survivor: Nicaragua. His career in music wasn’t cohesive until after he hit success co-writing Florida Georgia Line’s summer anthem “Cruise.” He told everyone in the arena that it felt great being back on a college campus again and admitted that Ohio is one of his favorite states to have concerts in. Rice’s father is from Columbus, which he proudly announced in between songs. Along with pride for Ohio, Rice confessed his love for pick-up trucks his dad inspired in him with a Chevy truck before his song “Look at My Truck.”

The concert reached its pinnacle when Rice performed his cover of Somo’s “Ride.” Macy Maloy sings alongside him on the album version of the song, but since he is touring without her he gave fans a different rendition. Midway through the song he picked a fan out of the pit and teased her by telling her they were going to role-play along to the lyrics. This provocative twist filled the arena with laughter and made a few hearts swell with jealousy as Rice jokingly told the fan her boyfriend didn’t exist tonight.

Before exiting the stage, Rice introduced all of his band members by having them play a snippet of a song of their choice. The songs they chose included Blink-182’s “All The Small Things,” “What’s My Age Again?” and Garth Brooks’ “Friends In Low Places.”

Rice finished the concert by jumping off the barrier adjacent to the stage. He briefly stayed in the arena to meet fans and sign autographs. Several people in attendance walked up the steps of the arena with satisfied smiles as they left the concert.

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