Little Big Town roll into Pennysaver Amphitheater Farmingville, NY 8-16-14 w/ Eli Young Band & The Henningsens

Little Big Town roll into Pennysaver Amphitheater Farmingville, NY 8-16-14 w/ Eli Young Band & The Henningsens

Alabama’s Country band Little Big Town has been busy over the past few months.  After hosting the CMA Music Festival back in June, the four-piece band has been on the road all summer long as they gear up for the release of their sixth studio album, Painkiller, due out October 21st. On Saturday August 16th, fans assembled at Pennysaver Amphitheater in Farmingville, NY to see Little Big Town, Eli Young Band, and openers The Henningsens in what was one of the last country concerts of the summer season at Bald Hill. Once again put on by Long Island’s country radio station, My Country 96.1 FM, who has teamed up with many great venues to bring more country music concerts to the Long Island. Rain, thunder, and lightening have unfortunately ended a few shows early in summer season, but thousands of fans in attendance were blessed with a beautiful evening for this line-up of bands.

The Henningsens, a trio from central Illinois, made up of father Brian on the guitar, brother Aaron on the bass, and sister Clara handling most of the lead vocals, started the night off perfectly. Their set not only included songs from their self titled EP released in May of 2013, but many songs from their full length album that will hopefully be released sometime in the near future. The Henningsens are known in the country world as talented songwriters, having writing credits on nearly half of all the songs that The Band Perry have recorded, including successful singles “You Lie,” and “All Your Life” from their first album. The trio played “You Lie” during their set, and Clara Henningsen showed ironically how many similarities there are between her and Kimberly Perry as performers. They also played “I Miss You” from their EP, which they thanked My Country 96.1 for playing often.  They also performed “Jesus or a Bullet”; a humorous song Clara and Aaron Henningsen wrote about their parents, and “A Good Idea At The Time”; their favorite song they have ever written. The Henningsens closed with “American Beautiful”; their first radio single and first top fifteen hit.

A short time later as darkness began to descend on the stage and the enthusiastic crowd, Eli Young Band took the stage.  Eli Young Band is more than worthy of a headlining show themselves, so getting them as an opener was special.  Throughout their set, they had a group of passionate fans in the front row screaming their names, cheering loudly, and holding up posters with each band member’s picture on them.

The band from North Texas, made up of Mike Eli with lead vocals, James Young on the guitar, Jon Jones on the bass, and Chris Thompson on the drums played a plethora of hits from their past albums as well as several from their current album 1000 Towns released this past spring. The first songs from the new album that Eli Young Band played was the title track, a feel good ode to small town life all across America that warmed up the crowd for the rest of their set. Throughout their time on stage, Eli made sure to thank those currently serving in the military, military veterans, and first responders multiple times for their service, and played a song from their current album that was dedicated to them called “Prayer for the Road”; a touching tribute to those that sacrifice for our freedom. They also performed their current single “Dust”; a track from the perspective of a woman leaving her life in a small town after being hurt in a relationship, number one hit from their previous album Life At Best “Even If It Breaks Your Heart”; a song encouraging everyone to follow their dreams, and (after the band took a shot on stage) the chart topping first single from 1000 Towns “Drunk Last Night”. Eli Young Band closed with their most popular song and first number one “Crazy Girl”. The crowd knew every word, singing along voraciously, even carrying the entire chorus by themselves at the end of the song. Eli Young Band’s stellar set left the now wired crowd more than ready for their headliner to finally take the stage.

Veterans Little Big Town, who recently entered their sixteenth year as a band, thrilled the crowd with twenty two songs spanning throughout their extensive discography that began when they came together back in 1998. The best way to describe Little Big Town is as modern day, country version of Fleetwood Mac; a band they admittedly were influenced by. During the show, each member of the four person band that includes Jimi Westbrook, Karen Fairchild, Philip Sweet, and Kimberly Schlapman alternated between lead vocals, stunning group harmonies, and playing multiple instruments on stage (guitar, piano, banjo, melodica, bass, ukelele, and tambourine). They are immensely talented as vocalists (both individually and together), musicians, and performers.

The group opened with a track that will be included on their new album Painkiller to be released in October 2014, “Turn The Lights On”; a loud, fast paced song great for opening a show. They ended up playing six other tracks from Painkiller, notably “Quit Breaking Up With Me”; a song about trying to make things work in a rocky relationship, “Stay All Night”; a classic rock influenced song that showcased Jimi Westbrook’s incredible vocal range, “Live Forever”; a gorgeous ballad filled with exquisite group harmonies, and “Day Drinking”; the albums current/first single that pulls directly from the sound that brought them success with the song “Pontoon” from their 2012 album Tornado.

They also mixed in many of their hits from past albums including the bluesy “Little White Church”, sweet, mid-tempo track “Bring It On Home”, the bluegrass tinged “Pavement Ends” that rolls along at a breakneck pace, the catchy “A Little More You”, and previous singles from Tornado “Sober”, “Your Side of the Bed”, and “Tornado”. As they transitioned seamlessly from hit to hit, their confidence, experience, stage presence, and showmanship, forged over a more than a decade of performing together on the road was readily apparent. They have charisma and chemistry on stage that is rare among even the most experienced and successful groups.

Little Big Town played two notable covers; both songs they described as huge influences on their musical sound. The first was “The Chain” by Fleetwood Mac, a classic rock influence, and the second was “Elvira” by The Oak Ridge Boys, a gospel and country influence. They also had some fun interacting directly with a fan that loved Kimberly Schlapman, but when asked, said jokingly that he didn’t like Karen Fairchild. Karen then brought him onstage for hugs from the band’s two females in attempt to win him over. Jimi Westbrook (Karen’s husband) got a laugh from the crown when he told the fan jokingly to stay away from his wife. Little Big Town closed their show with “Pontoon”; the platinum selling lead single from Tornado, and the song that broke them through as a band, “Boondocks”; a swampy tribute to living out in “the boondocks” which has always been a fan favorite. The crowd got involved in singing along to both popular songs, cheering deafeningly as the band finally left the stage at the shows end.

Many talented country acts have made their way across the stage at the Pennysaver Amphitheater over the past year, but Little Big Town undoubtedly puts on a show that is almost impossible to match. Overall, fans were treated to three great bands, perfect weather, and a unique venue experience that will have them eager to see Little Big Town, Eli Young Band, and The Henningsens the next time they are in town while restlessly anticipating the next country show at the Pennysaver Amphitheater.




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Taylor Ostrick
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