IOWA CITY — Old Dominion may have earned best vocal group honors from a country music organization earlier this year, but the music they played Friday rocked a nearly sold-out crowd at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City.
From the opening lines of “Song for Another Time” — which features the titles of 20 songs from different genres and generations — to the closing strains of “Not Everything’s About You,” the five-man band from Virginia kept fans on their feet and belting along for a full 90-minute set.
The concert, with openers Brandon Ley and Michael Ray, was a benefit for the Adolescent and Young Adult Cancer Program at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics’ Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center.
A boisterous singalong of “Like There’s No Such Thing as a Broken Heart” — with a chorus that rings out, “You know you can’t keep the ground from shaking, no matter how hard you try” — provided the perfect opening for a group of about a dozen adolescent and young adult cancer patients, nurses and caregivers to take center stage, led by Margaret McCaffery.
McCaffery and her husband, Hawkeyes head basketball coach Fran McCaffery, brought the concert to Carver to support the program, which has been important to them since their son, Patrick, was diagnosed with thyroid cancer at age 14.
“This right here is what makes us truly love what music does,” Old Dominion frontman Matt Ramsey told the crowd. “Our music has brought you all here to support this program, and by being here you’ve done so much more for us than we could do for you.”
With the patients on the stage, Ramsey talked to the crowd about a new Hawkeye tradition, the Kinnick Wave, and the impact the gesture had on him.
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“There may not be football right now, but that doesn’t mean we can’t wave,” he said. “I want all of you out there to wave to these brave folks up here on stage.”
And the crowd of nearly 15,000 did just that.
Despite its rocking demeanor, Ramsey and guitarists Trevor Rosen and Brad Tursi showed just why they were named “Best Vocal Group” by the Academy of Country Music earlier this month, with hits from their 2015 debut album, “Meat and Candy” as well as tunes from their upcoming second album, “Happy Endings.”