“I’m a Fan Now!” Travis Tritt LIVE! at the Strand Lakewood

By Spotlight Central. Photos by Love Imagery

At The Strand Theater in Lakewood, NJ, on this beautiful Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017 evening, we witness lots and lots of country music fans making their way through the double doors ready for a live concert at the Jersey Shore by none other than country music superstar Travis Tritt!

As patrons enter the lobby, we take a moment to talk with some of them about tonight’s performance.

First, we chat with Cathy from Point Pleasant — a longtime fan of Travis Tritt — who reveals she’s here tonight with her friends, Lorette and Jim from Manasquan, who surprised her with the gift of a concert ticket.

“I really enjoy Travis Tritt’s music,” explains Cathy. “He has heartfelt songs, a fabulous sexy voice, and he is a great entertainer!”

Going on to add, “I first saw him about 20 years ago,” Cathy characterizes Tritt’s music as “a mix of the music of the Eagles and traditional county music which I like to call ‘Southern Fried Rock.’”

She also tells us that her all-time favorite Tritt song is “Here’s a Quarter (Call Someone Who Cares),” admitting she hopes Tritt will perform it tonight.

Cathy’s friend, Lorette, acknowledges that she is a more recent Tritt fan, revealing, “This is my first time seeing Travis!”

Going on to explain Tritt’s music’s appeal by stating, “He has really great lyrics,” Lorette goes on to add, “And I think it’s going to be really great to get to see him in a small venue like The Strand.”

Lorette’s husband Jim nods his agreement, stating that Tritt’s appeal for him is his “great voice,” and adding, “I’d really like to hear him play his song, ‘Anymore,’ tonight.”

Next, we catch up with a father and his daughter, here together to enjoy Travis Tritt’s performance this evening.

Dad Stu from Howell explains, “My sister-in-law saw Travis Tritt last year and thought I would love him, so she recommended that I come see him,” going on to remark, “I really like him because his music is somewhere between country and Southern rock.”

Stu’s daughter, Lindsay, 14, agrees with her dad stating, “I enjoy his music, too — he’s not like classic country — and I especially love his song lyrics.”

Lastly, we chat with Jules from Toms River — a long-time fan — who comments, “I love Travis Tritt’s music because it’s fun,” before adding, “It’s especially enjoyable to sing along with his music while driving, but he has some really nice country love songs, too.”

As the Strand auditorium begins to fill up with country music lovers currently streaming in from the lobby, we notice some fans who are tapping their fingers before the show even begins to the pre-recorded county music playing over the sound system.

The lights dim and Jim D’Amico, producer of tonight’s show, takes the stage to welcome the crowd and ask the audience to take a moment to acknowledge the US military veterans in the house.

Following appreciative applause, D’Amico also thanks the audience for their contributions to a New Jersey charity which is near and dear to his heart. Tommy’s House is a charity created by D’Amico in 2011 in remembrance of his late brother, Tommy. According to D’Amico, the charity provides temporary emergency housing, clothing, and referral services for homeless men and women — notably US veterans — both in Passaic County and in neighboring Bergen County, NJ.

After D’Amico announces that “Travis Tritt will be out in just a few moments,” the pre-recorded voice of TV’s Larry the Cable Guy can be heard over the sound system comically reminding the audience “not to throw quarters — or anything else — at the band!”

The members of Travis Tritt’s six-piece County Club Band take their places — Brian Arrowood on fiddle, guitar, and mandolin; Mike Daly on pedal steel guitar and dobro; Jimmy Fullbright on bass and backup vocals; LeJoe Young on drums; Wendell Cox on lead guitar; and Jared Decker on keyboards. Lights polka-dot the stage in white, yellow, and red as the crowd waits for Travis to make his entrance.

People start to shout and clap as soon as the band starts up and Tritt bounds out onto the stage playing his guitar and dancing as he sings a lively rendition of his 1990 tune, “Put Some Drive in Your Country.”

As Tritt and the band rock out, all the Travis fans in the house sing along to the wailing electric guitar, slide guitar, and steel guitar sounds, not to mention drummer LeJoe Young’s driving beat. Tritt struts his stuff while playing a tasty solo on his guitar, finishing up with a flourish as he tosses a guitar pick into the happy crowd.

Switching guitars as the lights change to orange and blue, Tritt segues into 1998’s “Rough Around the Edges.” As Travis dances, he kicks one leg forward and then hops back into place, the crowd loving every moment.

Fiddle player Brian Arrowood plays the intro to 1990’s “I’m Gonna Be Somebody.” As the crowd sings along, Tritt harmonizes with Arrowood’s fiddle.

Drinking in the love of the audience, Tritt opens his arms wide and acknowledges the charged-up country crowd.

“It’s great to be here in the Garden State!” announces Tritt before revealing, “Most of the songs we’re gonna play have been around for awhile.” As the audience cheers, Tritt — under the illumination of numerous bright green stagelights — exclaims in his Southern drawl, “We came to party, so let’s get it done!”

Here, Tritt launches into his crowd-pleasing 1991 number, “The Whiskey Ain’t Workin’,” crooning, “There was a time, I could drink my cares away/And drown out all of the heartaches that hurt me night and day/When the thought of you came crashing through, I’d have one more/But now the whiskey ain’t workin’ anymore.” On this number, Tritt is accompanied by Arrowood’s swingin’ violin, Mike Daly’s twangy steel guitar, and Jared Decker’s honkytonk-sounding digital keyboard.

As Jimmy Fulbright’s bass walks along, the crowd joyfully taps their toes and claps their hands.

Next, Tritt captures the audience’s hearts with his poignant rendition of 1996’s “Where Corn Don’t Grow.” Wendell Cox’s slide guitar and Brian Arrowood’s mandolin help to round out the tune’s easy country feel.

White light stars dance in circles around the stage as Tritt performs his 1993 arrangement of The Eagles’ “Take It Easy.” The crowd happily sings along and Travis dances as flashing pinwheels of light spin on the backdrop behind him.

For the next few songs, Tritt takes a seat at a big old easy chair emblazoned with his name where he performs songs like 2000’s “Love Of a Woman.”

As he serenades the room, couples in the crowd can be seen holding one another close, and some men in the audience can even be heard crooning the song’s lyrics to their partners.

After talking to the audience about “staying true” to one’s “country roots,” Tritt sings a song he wrote for two of his country heroes, Waylon Jennings and Hank Williams Jr.

Alone on the stage as yellow, orange, and purple lights center on his picking fingers, Tritt makes his guitar sing country on 1994’s “Outlaws Like Us” before the lights change to red, white, and blue and the audience goes wild.

White lights shine down on Tritt as he sings 1991’s “Anymore.” Inviting the crowd to sing along, they do so with gusto.

Following huge applause, the band returns, and after an Arrowood fiddle intro, Tritt does jumping jacks as he plays his guitar to 2000’s “Southbound Train.”

He follows that up with “Here’s a Quarter (Call Someone Who Cares).” Tritt gets laughs from the crowd when he reveals that this 1991 hit contains lyrics which even Tritt’s own children don’t understand due to a lack, these days, of pay phones. As a result, according to Tritt, he often has to tell his kids, ‘Here’s an iPhone (Call Someone Who Cares).’”

Introducing the tune that he says “got everything started for me,” Tritt and the band launch into a highlight of tonight’s show, his 1990 hit, “Country Club.” Holding the microphone out to the audience so they can sing along, this audience proves they know all the words as they joyfully sing, “I’m a member of a country club/Country music is what I love/I drive an old Ford pick-up truck/I do my drinkin’ from a Dixie cup/Hey, I’m a bonafide dancin’ fool/I shoot a mighty mean game of pool/At any honky-tonk roadside pub/I’m a member of a country club.”

Rocking out with guitarist Wendell Cox, once the song is over, the crowd cheers and a fan yells out, “You’re the best, Travis!”

The County Club Band members invite the crowd to join them in clapping their hands over their heads as Tritt sings 2000’s “It’s a Great Day to Be Alive.” Tritt has everyone joining in as he exclaims, “Howl with me! Don’t that make you feel good?” before the audience is treated to a real country solo played by Mike Daly on the dobro — a special resonator guitar played by a slide with the strings facing up.

Fog starts to envelope the stage to the electronic sounds of tuning instruments on the introduction to Tritt’s 2000 number, “Modern Day Bonnie and Clyde.” After telling his story with his clear country voice and guitar, Tritt fist-bumps Daly, his dobro and pedal steel player, in thanks.

Following a nod to contemporary county singer Chris Stapleton with a performance of “Nobody to Blame,” swirling yellow flowers appear on the floor and the lights put on their own dancing show while Tritt performs 2003’s “Lonesome, On’ry And Mean.” Down front and center doing what he does best — singing and playing his guitar — Tritt appears to become one with his instrument as he makes his music flow from his guitar straight through to his captivated audience.

Following huge applause, Tritt takes a few moments to introduce the members of The Country Club Band and give each musician a chance to solo in the spotlight. Then, standing without his guitar — his hands over his head clapping — Tritt and the boys perform the last song of the evening, 1991’s “Homesick.”

Twirling two towels used to wipe his brow, Tritt tosses the towels into the adoring crowd.

He closes the show by wishing his fans farewell, announcing, “Peace. God bless and good night!”

As the happy fans begin to make their way out of the theater, we chat with several of them who share their thoughts about tonight’s concert.

Exclaims Martina, a long-time Travis Tritt fan from Toms River, “He was wonderful — he didn’t disappoint at all!” before going on to add, “I’ve seen him many times before and I’m glad I came to see him again tonight!”

Another long-time fan, Robert from Manahawkin, agrees acknowledging, “I became a Travis Tritt fan when I won tickets through a radio contest to see him in Atlantic City.”

Disclosing, “I’ve seen him a total of five times now,” Robert comments, “This show was great — he always does an excellent job!” before revealing that his favorite song tonight was “Country Club.”

Robert’s wife, Joanne, agrees with her husband, stating it was Robert “who turned me on to country,” before confessing that her favorite song tonight, too, was “County Club.”

Lastly, we chat with two first-time Travis Tritt concertgoers. Whereas Cindy from Jackson calls Travis Tritt’s program tonight, “One excellent show!” her friend, Mona from East Windsor, not only agrees, but goes on to exclaim, “Even though this was only my first time seeing Travis Tritt, I’m a fan now!”

To learn more about Travis Tritt, please go to travistritt.com. For information on upcoming performances at The Strand — including The Lovin’ Spoonful and Gary Puckett on Oct. 13; The Hit Men on Oct. 21; and a Golden Oldies Spectacular with The Shirelles’ Shirley Alston Reeves, The Happenings, The Platters, The Crystals’ La La Brooks, and more on Oct. 29 — please click on strand.org.