Concert review: “Cam” has all the necessities of a first album

Grammy nominated country artist Cam performs at the Maintenance Shop in Ames Feb. 28. Cam is currently on tour with Brad Paisley, opening for his thirteenth headlining concert tour, Crushin’ It World Tour.  

Maggie Curry

The SUB-sponsored concert featuring Grammy-nominated Cam performed in the Maintenance Shop on Sunday night. It was an intimate crowd, about six rows deep. This suited the M-Shop better than the Great Hall, where it had been scheduled.

Student tickets were $18, possibly attributing to the lower-than-expected attendance. It was also at the same time as the Oscars.

Dress code for the chilly evening brought out sweaters, flannels and blue jeans, boots not required but suggested. 

Levi Hummon opened the evening with easy rhythms suitable for summer radio. Hummon’s first EP will be out April 1 – something to look forward to in 2016. Although unfamiliar to the audience, they moved easily to his music and seemed open to hearing his music. 

Hummon sang “Red, White and You,” a song he co-wrote for Steven Tyler’s new album. The crowd caught the chorus easily and joined in, followed by loud cheers. He also sang a song written for the Guts and Glory RAM campaign. His songs emphasized American pride. He went right into a cover of Thomas Rhett’s “Die A Happy Man,” which thrilled the crowd and had them singing along from the start.

Hummon finished with the song “Make It Love,” which he co-wrote with his father.

“He would hate me if I didn’t play it,” Hummon joked. “Plus, it’s how I get my inheritance.”

While not necessarily stand-up-and-move songs, they were perfect for driving in the summer. Unfortunately, the M-Shop was standing only that night, so the crowd was restless.

Check out Hummon’s “Make It Love” video here.

The sounds of a summer night, including crickets and far off trains, played as Cam’s band took the stage. A heavy beat brought Cam out in a blue dress with shimmering earrings peeking out from under her signature curls. She began with “Untamed,” the title track of her debut album, out now. Cam had been opening for Brad Paisley, and her music could easily suit a larger venue.

She thanked the crowd for coming. “Who needs the Oscars? Not us,” she said, before beginning “Half Broke Heart.”

“I’m trying to act cool, but this is the first time we’ve had a bunch of people singing along like this,” Cam said. “Way cooler than the Grammy’s.”

Cam’s next song belonged to the country sub-genre my dad likes to call ‘man-hating anthems.’ Every country girl needs one, and it consists of getting back at some jerk who did you wrong. For Cam, it was “Runaway Train.” 

Cam’s set included the staples one would expect from a country girl’s successful first album: a man-hating anthem, a song about home, a song for going out, a song for an unhealed heart, a song for summer in your truck, a song to make you cry and a song about your mistakes.

Cam shared that her next song was about trying to help a friend grieve in a difficult time in her life. “Four years ago now one of my best friends growing up, her older brother passed away,” Cam said. “She was pregnant at the time, and she mostly talked about how he wouldn’t be around to be an uncle.

“I wrote the best I could, and I mostly cried a lot.”

For Cam, “Village” was what she thought her friend’s brother would say to comfort her. “Everyone you love makes a village in your heart. They aren’t gone,” Cam said.

Even with the extensive warning this would be a sad song, I still had tears in my eyes. Cam wiped a few away when she finished as well.

She picked back up with “MayDay,” her newest single. Listen here.

Cam’s bandmates included Anders Mouridsen – “from Denmark, on loan,” Alex Balderston – “our hawaiian barefoot,” Douglas Showalter, who co-wrote “Down This Road,” and Wally Waldron on the drums. “Want It All” followed the introductions, then “Down This Road.”

“We were thinking about missing home at the time,” Cam said. “Now we actually are.”

Cam thought college students would relate to the song. “You know, your mom is there and she’s cooking for you, and you’re laying on the couch and don’t help at all,” Cam said.

Her music is reminiscent of Carrie Underwood’s first album, and would not tarnish either singer if they shared a playlist.

Cam’s next song, “Country Ain’t Never Been Pretty,” struck a sore spot with some audience members. Midwestern country-concert goers, specifically females, tend to fall into two categories of “farm country” and “pretty country,” and dress accordingly. For this reason the song was slightly controversial for audience members, although my personal favorite. You could tell the band enjoyed it as well, as they wore broad smiles throughout the song.

“Country music is about working hard and not giving a s*** what you look like,” Cam said.

She did admit that the Grammys had been a weird experience for her, and that she was still learning to use makeup, even comparing it to being “like theater.” Her kewpie doll face and halo of curls give her an iconic image worthy of Marilyn Monroe or Dolly Parton – a smart move to distinguish herself from potentially being “just another country singer.” 

Cam shared her stories in a self-depreciating but unashamed way. “Hungover on Heartache” was about that horrible feeling after a fight, when you feel like “I guess we gotta work this out, we’re adults and we’re staying together,” Cam said.

One of the things that sets Cam apart is her cheeky lyrics, like in the song that followed. It was what Cam described as an attempt at an Irish drinking song, and involved the audience with sets of claps and “hey!”s. An Irish melody layered in with the country.

Lyrics included “I went to the bank for some money, with a mask and a gun,” and after a gavel falls, “free bread and water has begun.” Cam uses gestures when performing to add a visual to her lyrics, miming the gavel falling.

“The next song is a precursor to “Burning House,” Cam said, referencing her Grammy-nominated single. “It’s about the same fella I did wrong.”

You can listen to a live version of “Stuck in the Middle” on Cam’s youtube channel.

Cam followed the mellower song with a laugh. “So have you guys tried Fireball Whiskey?” The crowd hooted. “So you all have embarrassed yourselves too,” Cam said.

Her song “Fireball Whiskey” came from a night, after which Mouridsen told her “sometimes you have to let your hair down and be your drunken self.” 

“Responsibly,” Showalter added, to laughs from the crowd.

The song featured guitar played by Mouridsen that did just what whiskey does – warms your heart on the way down. The bass even gave you a taste of that next morning regret, sitting deep in your gut like lead. And the lyrics were in top-notch cheeky form. “It all came up again, but my breath was still cinnamon whiskey fresh,” Cam sang.

“My mom hates that one,” Cam said. “I’ll let you guess why.”

Her next song, “My Mistake,” was about “owning up to it.” Cam shared a story about a crush in college on a guy in her 8 a.m. class. He would turn around to look at her during class frequently. 

“I was like, yeah, we have a thing,” Cam laughed. 

She followed him to the drinking fountain one day to introduce herself, to his confusion. Turned out the clock in that room was behind her head, and he had no idea who she was.

Cam ended with “Burning House,” which was grammy-nominated for Best Country Solo Artist. After announcing the song, there were audible gasps from the audience followed by cheers. She encouraged the audience to use their phones as flashlights, but most chose to record her performance instead. The whole room sang along, even completing a chorus by themselves. She got the crowd to put their arms around each other, and they cheered for a solid minute when the song finished.

If you haven’t heard “Burning House,” watch the video here.

The concert ended uneventfully. “Normally, I stay to touch all of you, but I’m sick,” Cam apologized.

“Give us the flu!” An audience member yelled.

As a compromise, Cam giggled and stood in the center of the stage while crowd members took selfies with her from a distance. She also gave autographs, a casual ending to the evening.