A second of silent anticipation swept over McGuirk Arena as the lights shut off, followed quickly by shrieks of excitement.
Hundreds of fists reached toward the sky, guitars strummed and Lee Brice took the stage.
The country singer, with special guest Keith Anderson, performed Saturday night in a concert hosted by the Central Michigan University Program Board.
“We had a lot of requests for country artists and Lee Brice was a popular one when we were talking with students around campus,” said Kelly Schiess, vice president of Program Board.
Brice proved to be a hit.
His opening song, “That’s When You Know It’s Over,” immediately brought the crowd to its feet as multi-colored strobe lights lit up the arena.
“I’m a huge country fan,” said Farmington junior Michael Davis. “I’m from North Carolina and he sings about Carolina a lot. I’m not sure if he’s north or south, but he’s a Carolina boy. That’s why I like him. I’ve been looking forward to this for a while.”
Flannel shirts, denim and boots of all styles populated the crowd, ranging in age from toddlers to CMU students to grandparents.
Since stepping on the scene in 2007, Brice has worked with top country artists including Garth Brooks and Jason Aldean.
He has also been recognized at multiple top country award shows. Most recently, he was a two-time nominee at the 2014 Grammy Awards for “I Drive Your Truck.”
“It was a good time. I really like the song he ended with called ‘Parking Lot Party,’” said Dearborn Heights junior Nicholas Montoni. “We don’t have a lot of country artists that come here. We need more.”
At one point, Brice brought a man on stage named Chip who had red hair, asking the crowd “Is he a fired up chip?” which led to a heartfelt “Fire up chips” chant from the audience.
Multiple chants echoed through the arena during the concert, including “USA,” “Let’s go Red Wings” and “We love beer,” following his new song “I Belong To The Drinking Class.”
Anderson sets the stage
Brice’s opening act, Keith Anderson, set the mood and pumped up the crowd.
“I think he got people really excited and ready for Lee Brice,” said Missouri senior Brooke Anway. “He was a good people pleaser.”
Although he is not as well-known as Brice, Anderson had the crowd singing along with his songs and waving their cell phones in the air.
The audience’s involvement was touching to the singer. Anderson said he took a year off from music to focus on his mom, who was diagnosed with and passed away from cancer.
“You never know when you’re gone that long, if people are still going to care. Thank you,” he said.
Anderson ended his set with his first song ever played on the radio, “Picking Wildflowers.”
“I always think it’s good to have artists open the show who aren’t well known,” said Brighton senior Griffith Gatewood. “It gives them a shot to show off their stuff. He’s been around for a long time. I’ve known about his song ‘Picking Wildflowers’ for five or six years now.”