IOWA CITY — Chances are if you’re not a country music fan, you weren’t at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday. And if you weren’t at Kinnick on Saturday, you missed out on something huge.
The Back Porch Revival, with country music superstar Blake Shelton headlining, kicked off its debut daylong event at the stadium, home of the University of Iowa’s Hawkeye football team, to a crowd of more than 50,000 excited, anxious fans.
Shelton’s excitement seemed to mirror that of the fans.
“Thank you so much, Iowa. I will never forget this night for the rest of my life,” he shouted at the end of the show.
The day’s excitement was fueled by a myriad of factors: native son Ashton Kutcher and former Hawkeye and Indianapolis Colt Dallas Clark organized the event to raise money for The Native Fund, an organization they created to help Iowans in need following natural disasters, and both were highly visible throughout the concert.
Tucker Beathard, the younger brother of Hawkeye quarterback C.J. Beathard, is an up-and-coming country musician and was the midpoint of the concert lineup. And the concert represented a day of firsts: The first concert ever to be held at Kinnick Stadium. The first major fundraising event for The Native Fund. The first time — at least in recent memory — fans could buy beer at Kinnick Stadium.
Energy was building through the day, from the opening tunes of newcomers The Hunter Smith Band at 3 p.m. to the final encore from Shelton shortly after 11 p.m. Kutcher and Clark took the stage periodically to remind fans why they were there, and to thank them.
“There’s no place like home,” Kutcher yelled to the crowd as he and Clark took the stage. “It doesn’t matter where I am or what I’m doing, when people ask me who I am, I always say, ‘I’m an Iowan.’”
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“Iowans got each others’ backs in a way other people don’t,” Kutcher said. “The Native Fund is about Iowans helping Iowans. In Iowa, if people are in trouble, we lift them up. We know from the flood and the tornadoes that when it happens, we can’t always count on the government to be right there to pick us up. You do it. You are the greatest resource in the state.”
There were some inspirational moments, too. Big & Rich thanked all of America’s veterans and emergency service workers.
“For everyone who is putting themselves on the front lines for our freedom, this one’s for you,” said Big & Rich’s Big Kenny. “We have something special here, y’all — freedom!”
And during Shelton’s “Home,” the stage went almost completely dark as he asked fans to light up the stadium with their cellphones.
There seemed to be no real highlight of the concert, as each performer brought something incredible to the stage. Beathard was joined onstage by his big brother, who “helped” the musical brother sing a song he’d written about the bonds of brotherhood, then again by C.J. Beathard and other members of the Hawkeye squad as he was leaving the stage. Big & Rich brought their rocking country style to the stage and honored American veterans by bringing a veteran from the audience up to the stage for a drink, then introduced “country rapper” Cowboy Troy to the stage, where they all broke into a high-energy medley of songs like “Tubthumping” and “Uptown Funk.” Thomas Rhett brought Kutcher back on stage to sing Garth Brooks’ “Friends in Low Places” with him.
Then Shelton took the stage.
“This makes me nervous, y’all,” he yelled to the crowd. “They told me there’d be a good crowd here, but this is a state!”