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Monday, September 28, 2009

In the Mood with Corey Smith: A Live Show Review


As people trickled in the Classic Center Theatre Friday evening, the half-filled theatre looked gigantic. The black ceiling went on forever and the empty maroon seats only emphasized the size of the venue. Five guys took the stage around 8 o’ clock and a raspy, southern drawl of a voice proclaimed, “for the next 35 minutes we’re going to talk about girls and drinkin’.”

True to their word, American Aquarium played songs about one-night stands, PBR and girls past--calling each out by name. It worked though. Front man, BJ Barham’s untamed voice combined with the twang of the guitar made you forget you were in ritzy theatre but in your favorite honky-tonk-- if you have a favorite honky-tonk, that is.

After American Aquarium’s fitting prelude to the night was over, there was an--what seemed to be--all too long break in the music, allowing people to top off for the evening. Slowly, what empty spaces remained were filled and the tall theatre transformed again, into a space as small as a living room. The sold-out audience became a rowdy bunch of friends circled around a guy with an acoustic guitar, everyone in agreement: a good time was about to go down. It was then I was reminded of the magic that is Corey Smith.


Smith started the night with a crowd favorite, “I’m In Love with a Memory,” a song about nostalgia and the longing to hold on to life’s sweetest moments. The audience, each with one hand holding a beer and the other in the air, sang along right into “Harmony.” The anticipation of the night caught up with itself and everyone was quite at home watching the UGA alumnus sing his heart out.

Smith described being at the Classic Center as “bitter sweet,” calling the fire at the Georgia Theatre an “unfortunate event” and that he’d probably be playing there instead had it not occurred. The Jefferson Ga. resident recorded a six-song EP at the Georgia Theatre in 2008, including a “kinda dirty song.” Known as the “road-head song”, “Let Me Love You on a Back Road” is a song about…well, it needs no further explanation.

A highlight of the show, for me, was a heart-felt rendition of a song written by Merill Scott, one of Smith’s favorite writers. “Heartbreak Town,” made popular by the Dixie Chicks, is a song is about the brutality of the music business. Smith said he had a “love-hate relationship” with Nashville, and he was not a fan of the branding that goes on in the Music City. (Oh, Corey, that’s why we love you.)


Smith announced he had been hard at work on a new album set to release in November, titled Keeping Up with the Joneses. He played the title track for the album, affirming the singer’s modest upbringing and the humility he brings to his music. For me, the song marked a milestone in the singer’s career.

 Fans of Smith have experienced the now husband and father’s trials as an artist and human being, his songs maturing as he does—all while being the kid at heart he is famous for. No doubt the upcoming album means fans will get a peek into yet another chapter of Smith’s life.

Without missing a beat or losing momentum, an instrumental intermission starting with Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” and ending with Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir” was played in response the crowd’s enthusiasm. As a member of the crowd, you felt as though you were witnessing a private jam session with some very talented musicians.

Smith attempted to end the night with “If I Could Do It Again” as every voice screamed out each lyric in perfect unison—if you didn’t know the lyrics you had no business being there. The screams only grew louder when he walked off the stage—the Classic Center crowd wasn’t letting him off that easy. In no time, a humbled guy wearing faded blue jeans and a black shirt complete with signature sunglasses walked back to the mic and gave an introduction for the next song, satisfying the crowd.

The night finally ended around the two hour mark, but only after a second-encore display of authenticity that has been selling out venues for years now. Those of us who remained gravitated to the front, singing along to “I sang Dixie the day he died…” –a proper ending to a memorable night with a few good friends and a small-town turned big-time star.


Smith played the songs he is known for and that his fans adore. Songs like “21” and “Drinkin’ Again” convey the unprocessed, out-pouring emotion that has connected him to audiences across the Southeast and elsewhere. Those are the songs responsible for thrusting the singer-songwriter to stardom. However, I couldn’t help but think as the 32-year-old told the audience he had to explain to his son it was “okay for daddy to say the ‘F’ word” because he was an adult, that Smith is growing up as an individual and thus his music along with him. And that’s okay; we can’t stay 21 forever--right? There's no doubt his fans will follow him through every episode of his life, singing along and growing as he does.

Corey Smith Set List:

“In Love with a Memory”
“The More You Drink”
"Maybe Next Year”
“Drinkin’ Again”
“Let Me Love You on a Back Road”
“Dirtier by the Year”
“In the Mood”
“Skin of My Teeth”
“Good-Bye Dixie”
“Heartbreak Town”
“Keepin’ Up with the Joneses”
“Fuck the Po-Po”
“Every Dawg”
A whole lot of “dawg calls”
“Sittin’ At A Bar”(Rehab)
“If I Could Do It Again”
“I Just Can’t Help Myself”
“I Sang Dixie” (Dwight Yoakam)

--Ashley Thompson

Currently listening to “Mary Mary” by American Aquarium
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  1. I saw a show a couple weeks ago in Huntsville, AL. That was my fourth time seeing him live, and definately not my last! I absolutely love him. He is an amazing artist! And Rob is so cool too! I love the atmosphere, show, and words of his songs! :)

  2. No...Corey Smith is awesome along with base player Rob Henson! You obviously have no taste in music and you dont have a clue about "talent"....!

  3. ...and drummer Marcus Petruska!

  4. Awesome job on the article Ash!!!!!! Miss you!!