The Daily Southerner
ROCKY MOUNT —
The sound of screaming fans was deafening Friday night as the country duo Love and Theft took the stage at Edgecombe Community College’s Keihin Auditorium in Tarboro.
The band pumped up the crowd with a rousing rendition of their hit song “Runaway” to start the show. Fans crowded the stage throughout the concert, cheering, snapping photos of the band and occasionally high-fiving band members between sets.
“Anybody seen the video for ‘Running Out of Air?’” the band’s singer and guitarist Stephen Barker Liles asked the audience during the concert. After hearing yells of affirmation, he said,
“Here it is, we’re going to play it right now.”
“Running Out of Air” is one of many upbeat songs that Love and Theft performed, and 15-year-old audience member Meagan Flora’s favorite.
”I just like faster songs,” she said.
The band slowed down the tempo of the concert with songs such as “Amen” and their new number “You Didn’t Want Me.” They brought the concert’s opening act, Chase Rice, back on stage for a rendition of “Baby, Get Ready.” The North Carolina native and contemporary country artist thrilled audiences with a rendition of his hit “Dirt Road Communion.” The audience sang along to his performance of “Barefoot, Blue Jean Night.”
Love and Theft ended Friday’s concert with a passionate performance of “Angel Eyes,” the duo’s song that reached number one on the country charts in August 2012. The concert was Liles’ and Gunderson’s second at ECC; they opened for country singer Taylor Swift at the venue in 2008.
“We’re very happy to be back,” said Liles and Gunderson, during their “meet and greet” with fans before going on stage.
Jane Walker and Kathy Calhoun of Rocky Mount eagerly awaited their turn to see one of their favorite country duos once again. When asked what she likes the most about Love and Theft, Calhoun replied, “Their personality. Their awesome personality.”
“They treat everybody the same. They’re just really nice guys,” Walker said. “They just put on a great show.”
Flora and Caroline Jones, both students at Edgecombe Early College High School, expressed their excitement about meeting two of their country idols for the first time.
“I’ve been excited for like two months,” Jones said. “I really like people to come here so I don’t have to go to Raleigh. It’s nice to know that people know we’re here.”
Jones has also seen Taylor Swift and country singer/ dancer Julianne Hough perform at ECC.
“Just being from the South makes me like country. I can relate,” said Jones. Flora agreed. She brought a poster for Gunderson and Liles to autograph, and asked them to do a shout out to one of her friends for her 16th birthday.
Justine B. Corbett, an Edgecombe Performance Series season ticket holder, also had the opportunity to meet one of the musicians – the Mercury Records country-rock recording artist Canaan Smith. She called Smith and the other musicians “just as personable as they can be,” and was particularly impressed with Rice’s interaction with the audience.
“There was a boy in the front [of the stage] with a guitar. He turned around and came back and squatted down and signed that little boy’s guitar,” Corbett said. “I thought that was so special.”
Smith liked the vibe from the audience at his first performance in Tarboro.
“It’s awesome, great crowd,” he said. “You can tell they love music.”
Many of the 500 or so audience members were high school or college students.
“The college demographic is important to me. They are really the instigators of new music,” Smith got his start in the country music world by co-writing “Runaway” with “Love and Theft. He later collaborated with Liles to write his 2012 debut single “We Got Us.” One of Smith’s favorite songs because of the message is “American Dream.”
“We are so lucky. Our daily routine is other people’s dream and I think we take that for granted,” Smith said,
Only time will tell whether Smith performs in Tarboro again, but he enjoyed his short visit.
“I ate at Everlean’s this morning. It was awesome,” he said.
The next concert in the Edgecombe Performance Series is The Original Tams, a Southern vocal group, featuring Robert Lee Smith, set for 8 p.m. Friday, March 22. For tickets, call Eric Greene, ECC’s cultural arts director, at 823-5166, ext. 187.