Country in the Commons returns to New Lenox

Joe Nichols brought about 2,500 country music fans out Sunday evening to the first of two Country in the Commons concerts in New Lenox.

The hot, humid August 16 show featured headliner Nichols with opening acts, Stephen Neal, of Shorewood, and Aussie Morgan Evans.

I missed Neal’s performance, but caught most of Evans’ show, which the crowd seemed to really enjoy. It was only his second show on his first American tour.

“I never wrote a drinking song until I came to America and had a margarita,” Evans said. “This is a song about those afternoons when you’re taking life one sip at a time.”

Evans released his self-titled debut album in March 2014, and received the Country Music Association’s 2015 Global Country Artist Award. He has an engaging stage presence and interacted well with the audience.

After his performance, fans lined up to buy his CD, get an autograph and take photos with him and his drummer.

“He was fun, really good,” said Marie Lewis, of Bridgeview, who was holding an autographed CD.

Lewis was at the show with four generations of her family. “We have great grandma, grandma, mom, aunt and daughter,” said Grandma Diana Stanislavski, of Justice. “We’re big country fans.”

Before Joe Nichols took the stage, I sat down at a picnic table to chat with Debbie McCarthy and her daughter, Rachel, of Oak Lawn and Rachel’s boyfriend, Nick Hurst, of Glen Ellen

“I love Joe Nichols, and I like the venue a lot, it’s small” Debbie said.

“I’m a big country fan,”  Rachel said, adding they had just finished a delicious beef sandwich from Gattos and fish tacos from Floyd’s Ale House.

The event gates opened at 4:30 p.m. and  included a variety of food and drink vendors from the New Lenox area.

By the time New Lenox Mayor Tim Baldermann took the stage to introduce Nichols about 8 p.m., the crowd had filled in and many were standing up front in front of the stage.

Nichols, who has had 14 Top 40 singles, played a variety of old and new songs including the No. 1 single “Gimme That Girl” and the gold single “Yeah,” and he even threw in “Runnin’ Down a Dream” by Tom Petty, during which he came off the stage into the pit area to greet fans.

His show lasted about an hour then he came back for an encore of two songs that everyone had been waiting for. First was “Tequila Makes Her Clothes Come Off,” which earned him two bras being thrown on stage. “I knew you were all fun here, but dang!” And he closed with “Sunny and 75,” which ironically was the temperature at that time in New Lenox.

We give this show a four guitar rating and look forward to the second Country in the Commons show on Sunday, August 30, featuring The Band Perry. Tickets are still available and may be purchased at the New Lenox Village Hall.

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