Cody Johnson Proves He’s A Country Music Icon in the Making With Sold-Out, Record-Breaking Nashville Concert

Johnson’s impressive set solidified his place as an arena headliner in country music, and further established him as a future icon in the genre.

By

Andrew Wendowski

Andrew Wendowski is the Founder and CEO of Music Mayhem. As a 29-year-old entrepreneur, he oversees content as the Editor-In-Chief for the independent brand. Wendowski, who splits time between Philadelphia, Penn., and Nashville, Tenn., has an extensive background in multimedia. Before launching Music Mayhem in 2014, he worked as a highly sought-after photojournalist and tour photographer, collaborating with such labels as Interscope Records and Republic Records. He has captured photos of some of the biggest names, including Taylor Swift, Metallica, Harry Styles, P!NK, Morgan Wallen, Carrie Underwood, The Rolling Stones, Madonna, Shania Twain, and hundreds more. Wendowski’s photos and freelance work have appeared nationwide and can be seen everywhere from ad campaigns to various publications, including Billboard and Rolling Stone. When Wendowski isn’t running Music Mayhem, he enjoys spending time at concerts, traveling, and capturing photos.

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Posted on February 3, 2024

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Cody Johnson; Photo Courtesy of Jay Trevino

Cody Johnson delivered an exhilarating set at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee on Friday evening (Feb. 2), as part of his headlining Leather Tour. The show marked Johnson’s first time headlining the Music City arena, as well as a significant milestone for Johnson, as he set the record for the most tickets ever sold by a male country artist headlining at Bridgestone Arena.

Brought His Texas Charm To Tennessee

The 36-year-old country superstar brought a taste of Texas to Tennessee, treating the sold-out crowd to an evening of real Country music, and yes, there was a fiddle in the band. As the lights went down and Johnson’s logo appeared on a massive screen, country songs that mention “cowboy” were played, including Toby Keith’s “Should’ve Been A Cowboy,” Glen Campbell’s “Rhinestone Cowboy,” Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead Or Alive” and more.

The hitmaker was introduced to the stage by an announcer, similar to how they announce cowboys and their horses to enter the ring at a rodeo, allowing his cowboy roots and Texas heritage to shine within his set. There was not a single empty seat in the arena, which was open all the way around, when Johnson took to the stage at approximately 9:25 PM. From that moment on, Cody Johnson commanded the capacity crowd’s attention with a captivating performance that lasted nearly two hours and featured over 20 songs that spanned his impressive career.

Cody Johnson; Photo Courtesy of Jay Trevino
Cody Johnson; Photo Courtesy of Jay Trevino

His electrifying set featured performances of some of his biggest hits, including “‘Til You Can’t,” “Me And My Kind,” “Diamond In My Pocket,” “Dear Rodeo,” and his top 5 and climbing single, “The Painter.” His set also included a handful of songs from his latest album, Leather, including the fan-favorite tune “Dirt Cheap,” “Work Boots,” “Double Down,” “Leather,” “People In The Back,” among others.

Donning his signature Resistol cowboy hat, a pearl-snap shirt, and a pair of Wrangler jeans complete with a belt buckle, Johnson was all smiles from the moment he exploded onto the stage to “Me And My Kind,” all the way through to the final lyrics of his “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys” cover.

A Future Entertainer Of The Year

Despite the large venue, Johnson’s intimate connection with the crowd was pretty evident throughout his set. Johnson’s performance was characterized by high energy and raw talent, as he made full use of the stage, captivating the audience’s attention at every turn. His dynamic stage presence challenged that of Garth Brooks, solidifying his status as a true entertainer and a contender for the coveted Entertainer Of The Year award.

Cody Johnson; Photo Courtesy of Jay Trevino
Cody Johnson; Photo Courtesy of Jay Trevino

Unlike extravagant productions, Johnson’s show was refreshingly minimalistic, focusing solely on his unmatched talent and ability to keep the crowd in the palm of his hand.

Several Highlights Of His Set

There were several memorable moments that took place throughout his set, including his performance of “Dear Rodeo,” a song that he declared changed his life, and his performance of “Human,” which truly showcased Johnson’s ability to connect with his fans through his story-telling lyrics.

Another highlight would be his performance of “Nothing On You,” which was welcomed by a massive sea of lights in the crowd, which Johnson admitted was mind-blowing to see, as he previously couldn’t sell out the small Nashville club, 3rd and Lindsley. He then performed the tune like he used to do when he sold CDs on his tailgate after a rodeo – just him and the audience.

“I worked my tail off for the last 17 years. This is not an overnight success. So, I want to send a message out to anybody out there that’s worried about chasing a dream,” Johnson told the crowd. ”If you want something, don’t wait for somebody to hand it to you. If you want something, go work for it. Here we are tonight, 17 years later, sold out in Nashville.”

Cody Johnson; Photo Courtesy of Jay Trevino
Cody Johnson; Photo Courtesy of Jay Trevino

Johnson Is Keeping Traditional Country Music Sound Alive

In a poignant moment of the show, Johnson reflected on keeping the country music sound alive before performing the life-changing hit, “Dear Rodeo.” 

“Before I say another word, before I sing anything else tonight. I want to say something that’s very near and dear to my heart and listen to me before I say this, I’m not your preacher, I’m the furthest thing from it. But, since I have about 20 something thousand people here gathered in one spot, I figured I’d let you all know right where I stand with it. All the sacrifices that I have made in my life have led me here, but there’s a lot of places I could be tonight besides here. Left to myself, I could have taken my life a completely different direction, but I truly believe that God put me on this Earth to help make country music sound like country music again.”

The singer keeps the traditional country music sound alive within his seven-piece band, known as the Rockin’ CJB – all of whom are from Texas, by continuing to incorporate the Banjo, steel guitar and fiddle, instruments that are no longer prominent in the country music genre like they used to be.

Shined A Light On Obstacles He Faced Before Finding Fame

Throughout the show, he also shined a light on all of the struggles and obstacles that he faced during his climb to superstardom before finding fame.

“I’ve had music in my DNA since I was born, and I knew that I was meant to play country music. All my heroes were country music singers, but the difference was I was from Texas and I wore a cowboy hat. Very early on when I came to Nashville, I got told that might’ve worked for George Strait or Garth Brooks, but that ain’t happening no more, son. You got to take the hat off. They said, ‘you’re not ever going to make it on national radio out of Nashville because you’re just a Texas artist.’” Johnson explained.

He continued, “Fast-forward about a decade, a decade of hard work and being told ‘no,’ I met my friends at Warner Music Nashville. The conversation went something like this. We don’t care what we have to do, we don’t want you to take the hat off, we don’t care where you’re from, you can leave the fiddle, you can leave the steel, we don’t change your producer, we don’t want to do nothing. We just want to be a part of this thing we heard about called the CoJo Nation, changing Country music, and they changed my life.”

Cody Johnson; Photo Courtesy of Jay Trevino
Cody Johnson; Photo Courtesy of Jay Trevino

Showcased Gratitude For His Peers And Fans’ Support

He went on to graciously thank all of his fans and those that supported his career along the way.

“Not only do I want to thank radio for what they’ve done, not only do I want to thank Warner Music Nashville for what they’ve done, I want to thank each and every one of you for being here tonight. I’m going to tell you this, what you did tonight was more than just buying a ticket. It was more than buying a t-shirt, it was more than streaming music, what you’re doing by sitting right here tonight at a sold-out show at Bridgestone Arena watching me do what I do tonight. We are changing Country music together tonight here in Nashville. From my the bottom of my heart, I want to say thank you.”

Johnson dedicated his performance of “On My Way To You” to his loyal fans, who are known as CoJo Nation.

Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn of Brooks & Dunn, Cody Johnson; Photo Courtesy of Jay Trevino
Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn of Brooks & Dunn, Cody Johnson; Photo Courtesy of Jay Trevino

Surprise Collaboration With Brooks & Dunn

In the midst of his headlining set, he surprised the audience with country music icons Brooks & Dunn, to perform their “Long Live Country Music” collaboration. 

“We got a few things we’ve got to set up for some special guests this evening…” Johnson shared as his crew set the stage for Brooks & Dunn‘s arrival. “This is what you call live music. How many of you know what tracks are? For those of you that don’t know, tracks are whenever somebody’s sitting over here on a computer, and they’re just playing stuff, and it’s not really going on onstage. I come from the honky tonks, I come from the bars and the dance halls. There ain’t no tracks on my stage, this is seven guys working our ass off playing real country music for you guys tonight.”

He then introduced the award-winning “Neon Moon” singers to the stage. “I know a couple other guys that worked their ass off growing up playing in the bars and the honky tonks. Their names are Brooks & Dunn, welcome to the stage here tonight,” Johnson said, which prompted a thunderous applause.

“I’ve strived my whole career to try to keep country music alive because of these two men right here and the way they influenced me,” Cody Johnson added before he and Brooks & Dunn performed their traditional country-leaning collaboration.

Following their stunning performance of the Leather track, Johnson, in a state of shock, told the sold-out crowd, “I just played a song with Brooks & Dunn. If you would’ve told me that [years ago], I would’ve called you a liar right to your face.” 

Honored The Military And First Responders With “God Bless America”

The Platinum-selling recording artist’s set also included a heartfelt speech and performance of “God Bless America,” a moment that served as a tribute to First Responders and the United States Military.

@musicmayhemmagazine.com

@Cody Johnson paid tribute to first responders and the United States military with a performance of #GodBlessAmerica during his Nashville concert on Friday evening (Feb. 2). #CodyJohnson #USA #America

♬ original sound – Music Mayhem

Johnson concluded his rowdy set with an emotional performance of “Dirt Cheap,” as well as “The Painter” and his chart-topping anthem, “‘Til You Can’t.”

Duet With His Two Daughters, Sings With Randy Houser

He returned to the stage for a three-song encore, which featured several special guests – his daughters, Clara Mae and Cori, and Randy Houser. His daughters joined him to sing “My Rifle, My Pony and Me,” while Houser and Johnson brought the house down with a cover of Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson’s “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys.”

Randy Houser, Cody Johnson; Photo Courtesy of Jay Trevino
Randy Houser, Cody Johnson; Photo Courtesy of Jay Trevino

The country star’s impressive set solidified his place as an arena headliner in country music, and further established him as a future icon in the genre—a path reminiscent of legends such as George Strait.

Ahead of the show, Cody Johnson received an RIAA plaque for 17 million streams and sales in Country music, an achievement he admitted “blew my mind.” This accomplishment brings his total career certifications to 46 million. Additionally, Warner Music Nashville also presented the hitmaker with a Gold plaque for his Top 5 single, “‘Til You Can’t,” which was one of his most-added at Country radio upon impact, making for one of the biggest radio add dates of Johnson’s career.

Justin Moore And Dillon Carmichael Served As Support

Justin Moore served as direct support on the show and truly shined with some of his biggest hits as well as songs from his latest album, Stray Dog, including his latest chart-topping hit “You, Me & Whiskey,” sans Priscilla Block. He also gave fans a taste of what’s to come with performances of “This Is My Dirt,” a track set to appear on his forthcoming eighth studio album.

@musicmayhemmagazine.com

@Justin Moore performed “You, Me & Whiskey,” sans @priscillablock, during his set in Nashville on @Cody Johnson’s LeatherTour! 🎶

♬ original sound – Music Mayhem

Dillon Carmichael, who was recently named one of CRS’ New Faces Of Country Music, kicked off the Country music-filled evening with a memorable set that included performances of “Family Tree,” “Drinkin’ Problems,” “Son Of A…,” “Big Truck” and his latest release, “Someone Who Don’t Miss Me at All.”

Leather Tour Comes In Support Of Cody Johnson’s Latest Album

Cody Johnson’s headlining Leather Tour, which kicked off on January 19 at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, California, continues through September of 2024. The highly sought after trek is nearly sold out and features support on select dates of the trek are Justin Moore, Dillon Carmichael, Chris Janson and Drake Milligan.

The tour comes in support of his latest album, Leather, which arrived in November of 2023. The 12-track project features his current single “The Painter,” which currently sits in the Top 10 at Country radio, as well as fan-favorite tunes such as “Dirt Cheap,” “Make Me A Mop,” “Whiskey Beat (feat. Jelly Roll),” and more.

For more information on Cody Johnson’s new music and upcoming tour dates, visit his official website, at codyjohnsonmusic.com.

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Andrew Wendowski is the Founder and CEO of Music Mayhem. As a 29-year-old entrepreneur, he oversees content as the Editor-In-Chief for the independent brand. Wendowski, who splits time between Philadelphia, Penn., and Nashville, Tenn., has an extensive background in multimedia. Before launching Music Mayhem in 2014, he worked as a highly sought-after photojournalist and tour photographer, collaborating with such labels as Interscope Records and Republic Records. He has captured photos of some of the biggest names, including Taylor Swift, Metallica, Harry Styles, P!NK, Morgan Wallen, Carrie Underwood, The Rolling Stones, Madonna, Shania Twain, and hundreds more. Wendowski’s photos and freelance work have appeared nationwide and can be seen everywhere from ad campaigns to various publications, including Billboard and Rolling Stone. When Wendowski isn’t running Music Mayhem, he enjoys spending time at concerts, traveling, and capturing photos.

See more posts from Andrew Wendowski