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If there are two things Michael Wilson Hardy can do, it's write a song and put on one heck of a show.
Country rocker HARDY is hitting the stage at Nashville's Municipal Auditorium for three nights, rocking out Thursday to Saturday. Accompanying the Philadelphia, Mississippi-born Nashville resident on "The Mockingbird & The Crow" tour are openers Lainey Wilson and Dylan Marlowe.
HARDY, born Michael Wilson Hardy, released his album "The Mockingbird & The Crow" in January, further trademarking his unique sound: half boot-stomping country and half head-banging rock, all the while bubbling with a signature "bad boy of country" outlaw spin.
Though HARDY is now one of country music's top touring solo acts, he got his start behind the scenes. HARDY, who received a degree in songwriting from Middle Tennessee State University, first wrote songs for some of country's most notable artists including Blake Shelton, Morgan Wallen, Dierks Bentley and Florida Georgia Line.
Now, he's risen through the ranks and earned four CMA nominations for November's awards show. Today, he is most recognizable for songs "Truck Bed," "Wait in the Truck" (featuring Lainey Wilson), "Sold Out" and "Give Heaven Some Hell."
Friday, during the evening with a packed crowd full of enthusiasm and vigor, hit rock song "Sold Out" captured the evening well. HARDY screamed into the mic, "Middle finger to the sky 'til I'm gone and dead / .44 in the Ford for the copperheads / Alcohol in my cup, got the whole house / Wall to wall and I still ain't sold out."
Alongside Nashville's favorite rebel, the crowd raised their hands and shook their heads.
Here are the highlights from HARDY and company's evening of foot-stomping country rock.
Opener Lainey Wilson
Nashville's rising country star Lainey Wilson took the stage after Dylan Marlowe's opening set.
Wilson, the "Things a Man Oughta Know" singer and native Louisianan, recently garnered a whopping nine Country Music Association award nominations. The country singer released album "Bell Bottom Country" last year with hits "Heart Like a Truck" and "Watermelon Moonshine."
To fans' delight, Wilson recently announced her 2024 tour, where she'll be stopping in Nashville.
Wilson arrived in a metallic red top, a tan suede cowboy hat with rhinestones, and equally shiny signature bell bottoms to match her top.
Wilson sang with an earnest country grit that Nashvillians know to be true. Elated to announce a guest who also took the stage at Thursday's show, Wilson said, "I'm such a fan of this man off and on the stage. Give it up for my friend with the biggest heart of somebody you will ever meet, my boy Jelly Roll!"
Wilson and Jelly sang their hit "Save Me," a remix release from earlier this year. Their harmonies soared throughout the auditorium with a country twang.
Wilson ended her set with hit "Watermelon Moonshine," introducing the song by asking the audience to think back to their first loves when they were in high school. Wilson transported the audience back to when they were 16, taking a moment to reflect on the transformative moments that stick in our memory long after they've passed.
In her sweet Louisiana drawl, Wilson sang alongside her audience, "Too young to know what love was / But we were learnin' on a sweet buzz / There's never nothin' like the first time / And mine's always gonna taste like / Watermelon moonshine."
HARDY'S hard rock country swagger
After Wilson's set, HARDY hit the stage. He wore a black cut-off tank top that showed off his sleeve of tattoos, occasionally donning a baseball cap when he wasn’t head-banging and flipping his hair to the beat.
HARDY, who is known for being a country outlaw who leaves expectations behind, only solidified that reputation Friday.
Opening song "The Mockingbird & the Crow" included gritty, screaming vocals with columns of white smoke and spurts of fire. The song was supported by visuals of birds flying on the screen behind HARDY as red and orange lights flashed on stage.
The evening was interlaced with mementos of hard rock, from a rocking shirtless drummer to a bustling, moshing crowd. Electric guitar ran underneath the evening's set list, alongside pulsing drums and gritty vocals.
A night of duets: Lauren Alaina, Lainey Wilson
HARDY welcomed Lauren Alaina to the stage to sing "One Beer" alongside him, a song that he dedicated to the pregnant women in the crowd. Alaina hit the stage in a black dress with silver studs, singing the narrative country hit with HARDY to fans' excitement.
The two harmonized on the chorus, singing, "First comes lust then a shotgun marriage / Six months later, comes a baby in a carriage / That's not all, that's not all / Here we go again drinkin' alcohol, yeah."
Later in the evening, HARDY brought out opener Wilson to sing their 2023 song "Wait in the Truck," which quickly became one of the evening's highlights. Another storytelling masterpiece, the two opened the song singing, "I got turned around in some little town / I'd never been to before / Working my way through a middle-of-June / Midnight thunderstorm."
HARDY's mental health journey
After struggling with anxiety and panic attacks earlier this month, HARDY canceled a few shows to focus on himself.
Since his tour bus overturned last year in Nashville, HARDY has been struggling with navigating anxiety and panic attacks. The accident affected four passengers onboard: HARDY, his tour manager, videographer and driver. Though most passengers onboard suffered serious injuries, all survived.
At Friday's show, HARDY addressed his mental health journey, saying, "I'm sure 90% of this room has seen my announcement I had to make at the beginning of the month talking about how I had to cancel shows because I had some mental stuff going on. And I would like to address that right now.
"If you are somebody, and chances are there's a lot of you in this room, that suffers from anxiety, that suffers from depression, I want you to know that you are not alone. Cause this dude right here goes through it," HARDY said, motioning to himself.
"If you're a skeptic, I just want you to give the people that have it and the people that go through it a little grace. Because, I can be honest with you, I've played in front of 80,000 people, I've done a lot of s*** I should be terrified of, that's one of the most terrifying experiences I've ever had," HARDY said of anxiety, thanking his fans for being patient with him throughout his recovery.
HARDY went on to sing song "Screen," a 2023 song about disconnecting from social media, asking the fans to put down their phones for the duration of the song.
HARDY truly shined on an encore of some of his most notable songs.
Opening the encore with "Truck Bed," HARDY returned to the stage wearing a Nashville Predators jersey, with number 22, donning a wide smile. He chanted his 2023 hit, singing, "I woke up on the wrong side of the truck bed this morning / With a bone dry bottle of Jack I was pouring," alongside an audience fueled off of Jack Daniels, wearing cowboy hats and boots themselves.
HARDY followed with 2018's "Rednecker." Southern pride bled through the performance as images of hunting, fishing and driving through the rural countryside were projected on the screen behind him while he sang.
And then "Sold Out" closed the set. The crowd stomped, sang and chanted as HARDY proclaimed, "Wall to wall and I still ain't sold out."
HARDY's Nashville Oct. 27 set list
the mockingbird & THE CROW
KILL SH!T TILL I DIE
ONE BEER (Guest Lauren Alaina)
GIVE HEAVEN SOME HELL
THE REDNECK SONG
More Than My Hometown, Morgan Wallen cover, with Dylan Marlow
red, with Dylan Marlowe
wait in the truck, with Lainey Wilson
God's Country, Blake Shelton cover
UNAPOLOGETICALLY COUNTRY AS HELL
Encore: TRUCK BED, REDNECKER, SOLD OUT
This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: HARDY brings night of country rock to Nashville's Municipal Auditorium