Pulling up to the Royal Oak Music Theatre, there was no question Hunter Hayes was in town. A long line of fans in flannel and cowboy boots wrapped around the block, anxiously waiting to see the country music star hit the stage again for the first time in years.

The show started off with high-energy opening acts, representing Hayes’s desire to support artists as young as he was only a few years ago. Fifteen-year-old rising country music artist Tegan Marie opened the show, performing her new single “I Don’t Know What Is.” Also part of the opening act was American country singer Levi Hummon, son of country music star Marcus Hummon.

Promising fans a taste of his new album while also giving them the old tunes they love, Hunter Hayes delivered a balanced show with authentic energy. Kicking off the show with a song from his upcoming album Madness, Hayes introduced his new music with genuine enthusiasm. It was clear he was excited to share his musical journey with his fans.

In addition to some of his “old stuff,” Hayes incorporated four unreleased songs into the set, and the crowd sang and danced along with just as much enthusiasm as they did for the songs they knew. He decided to break the show into two “acts,” devoting the first to his newer music and the second to his older, more popular tunes.

Hayes also had words of wisdom to share with the audience. Pausing the music to have a heart-to-heart with the crowd, it took Hayes a brief moment to muster up the words he wanted to say behind his big smile. “Thank God you showed up tonight!” he joyously exclaimed, and the crowd went wild with applause. Hayes stood at the front of the stage and talked as if he was just having a conversation with a friend. The way audience members were cheering with words of encouragement and even tearing up showed how well Hayes could create intimate, meaningful relationships with his fans.

In his monologue, he explained his journey to his new album and how he wanted to give his fans something real instead of music written to appeal to his record label. Motivated by his own journey of staying true to himself in his music, he ended his monologue by saying, “You are perfectly fine just being yourself,” before starting up again with one of his old, more bluesy tunes, “Love Makes Me.”

One of the most notable parts of the show was Hayes’s acoustic set during which he performed solo. Starting off with a piano version of “Love Too Much,” Hayes prefaced the song by noting how it was requested by fans. He then dove into “Invisible” and included an a cappella ending for the audience to sing along. The song is about recognizing the beauty in being different, and hearing the crowd passionately recite the lyrics gave off an overwhelming sense of hope and community even though we were all strangers.

The end of the set was packed with crowd favorites, starting with Hayes’s 2012 hit single “Wanted.” From there, he played other favorites including “Tattoo” and “I Want Crazy.” Also in the mix was his new single “Heartbreak,” released back in January.

The most striking part of Hayes’s performance was simply his authentic and genuine character. There was no question Hayes was dying to be on that stage performing his new music after such a long break. Even the audience could tell the tour is a breath of fresh air for Hayes; cheers of encouragement could be heard from the crowd as he expressed his struggle to be true to himself as an artist while writing his new album.

Hayes proved he’s no longer just a country pop star, wowing the audience with his broad array of musical talents. From his powerful vocals in songs like “Dead God” to impressive guitar solos in “Rainy Season,” Hayes showed his handle on the craft of music. Even though he has grown through his new album, he was still able to give his audience the “old stuff” with a new kind of energy, highlighting his devotion to his fanbase. It’s safe to say Hunter Hayes is back and better than ever, as he impressed his Detroit fans with his new musical approach.


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