Photos and Words by Velton Hayworth
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The Cody Johnson Throwdown came to town Saturday, and it sure did live up to its name.
The fans at Panther Island Pavilion were treated to nearly six hours of pure Texas country, interrupted only by a North Texas storm burst. The CoJo Nation that waited enjoyed a memorable set from Johnson, the Huntsville native and former bull rider who has been tearing up the country charts in recent years.
The sold-out Throwdown kicked things off at 6 p.m. Saturday with opener Chris Colston coming out of the gates kickin’ as the crowd poured to the front of the stage.
After a couple of songs, Colston told the crowd he purchased a cheap bottle of vodka at a gas station the night before in Lake Charles and stayed up with Cody Johnson to watch the sunrise. The whole time, they talked about how lucky they were to be playing music for a living.
Fortunately the lack of sleep didn’t effect his performance as he delivered a high-energy, guitar-driven set that kept the crowd on its feet for its full 40 minutes.
After Colston’s set, the weather turned ugly, with high winds and heavy rain sending some fans rushing to their cars. Others found cover under various portable awnings. After 45 minutes of Mother Nature throwing a fit, the crowd started pouring back in.
The lines were long to get back into the show as the legendary Ronnie Milsap got things kickin’ again a little after 9 p.m.. The six-time Grammy winner with 40 No. 1 hits had enough material to play all night, but he crammed hit after hit into a 35 minute set…and somehow found time to cover “American Band” by Grand Funk Railroad and “Honky Tonk Woman” by the Rolling Stones.
Milsap also gave special thanks to the men and women in uniform who serve our country, breaking into “This Land Is Your Land.” The crowd, 12,000 strong, sang along in perfect harmony.
Cody Johnson came on stage shortly after 10 p.m. to the roar of a sold-out crowd, and started off his 19-song set with “With You I Am” off of his fifth album, “Gotta Be Me”
Johnson, who rode the storm out backstage in a pair of shorts, had no doubt the CoJo Nation would stick it out to the end.
“The scariest thing that’s happened to me lately was thinking we might not be able to get up here and play tonight,” he said. “ I tell you right now, I am fired up to be here Fort Worth, Texas.”
Kevin Fowler, whose set had been canceled due to the storm earlier, joined Johnson for a couple of songs: “100 % Texan” and “‘Beer, Bait and Ammo.”
“One of the first shows I ever watched that made me want to play music, besides Garth Brooks and Chris LeDoux, was one of these Texas heroes of mine named Kevin Fowler,” Johnson said. “Tonight the storm hit and Kevin didn’t get to play his set. I’m not going to disrespect one of my heroes by not getting him out here to play y’all some music tonight, so ladies and gentlemen make some noise for the one and only Kevin Fowler.”
Backlit by the beautiful Fort Worth skyline, Johnson finished the show with “On My Way To You” off his latest No. 1 album, “Ain’t Nothin’ To It.”
His electrifying performance had a great mix of songs from all six of his albums, and his 2019 Throwdown will be one to remember for years to come for the fans who rode out the storm.