Florida Georgia Line brought country rap to MetraPark for 7,500 fans

These guys cross more than state lines with their genre-bending version of rap, pop and country. A steamy Thursday night in Billings got even hotter when Florida Georgia Line hit the Rimrock Auto Arena stage at MetraPark amid shooting flames.

A packed house of 7,500 fans was on its feet the minute the floor-to-ceiling curtains fell and the duo emerged 20-feet above the stage on identical suspended platforms.

Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley who make up Florida Georgia Line already were sweating on their opener, the fist-pumping party song, “This Is How We Roll.”

One fan asked, “How will all the country fans like this music?” The simple answer is — they love it.

Shane Schell, of Baker, surprised his wife Stephanie on his April Fool’s Day birthday with VIP tickets to the show, which got them backstage for an acoustic set before the show that started at 7 p.m.

“The tickets were insanely expensive, but I love these guys,” Stephanie said, holding up her $45 concert T-shirt.

Fans showed up hours before the 7 p.m. show, following advice by MetraPark officials who said new security rules would slow things down. But additional personnel helped get most of the fans through the doors by 7. Jack Real Bird, of Garryowen, said he was pleased that he got into the arena in time for the opener.

“It’s a good day for a concert,” Real Bird said. “It’s all about the build up.”

Ray Massie, MetraPark marketing director, said staffers were able check 100 people a minute. The new security rules are industrywide, and Billings fans should expect the beefed up security at concerts from now on, assistant general manager Sue DeVries said.
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Nashville trio The Cadillac Three opened the show, playing a longer set because another opener, Kane Brown, had to cancel. Looking like the cast from “Wayne’s World” and sounding a bit like ZZ Top, the trio filled the first hour with blazing riffs and songs about Southern pride. They even managed to slip “Montana” into one of their lyrics.

Then Cole Swindell blew through his radio-friendly, feel-good hits, starting off with “Down Home Boys” and finishing with the crowd-favorite sing-along “Ain’t Worth the Whiskey/Drink You Away.” As loud as the fans cheered for Swindell, they were definitely there for Florida Georgia Line, and the duo didn’t disappoint.

“Thank you for hanging with us,” Hubbard said. “We just want to say thank you for being here tonight. It’s the biggest thrill for us to be up here performing for you.”