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Concerts at the Canfield Fair brought memorable moments

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Chris Young was happier than usual during his concert Monday at the Canfield Fair. That’s because it was his first show since he joined the Grand Ole Opry.

Young got a surprise invitation to become a member of the hallowed organization at the end of his performance at the hall Aug. 29. Country great Vince Gill extended the offer to him at the end of the show, and the stunned Young — of course — accepted.

As an Opry member, Young will become a regular performer at the iconic Nashville theater. It will also allow the deep-voiced mainstream country star to realize a life long dream.

Young, at just 32 years old, has already played the Opry stage 78 times.

He and his pal Gill co-wrote Young’s hit song “Sober Saturday Night,” which was on Monday’s set list.

Opening for Young was RaeLynn, the cute-as-a-Pokemon singer with the sweet little-girl voice and pacing.

RaeLynn is only 23 but she has already produced one of the most powerful songs in recent memory with “Love Triangle.” The song is an autobiographical look back on her parents’ divorce when she was a small child, and the shuttling back and forth between mom and dad — with tearful goodbyes — that came next.

RaeLynn has a naturally sad demeanor that seems to stem directly from the heartbreaking era the song references. Seeing her perform “Love Triangle” at the fair only reinforced that opinion.

The Chris Young-RaeLynn concert came the day after John Mellencamp, with special guest Carlene Carter, rocked the grandstand stage in the final show of their summer tour.

At 65 years old, Mellencamp is a raspy-voiced elder statesman of rock who is only getting more interesting. His ’80s hits hold up remarkably well, especially with the Americana flavor he now prefers. Mellencamp’s tight band includes longtime guitarist Mike Wanchic and Miriam Sturm, whose violin is amplified to a level befitting a lead instrument.

Despite his evolution, Mellencamp remains a rocker. “I was 16 years old when I wrote this and I still feel the same way,” he said in introducing “Authority Song.”

A longtime social activist (and a pretty good painter!), Mellencamp will be back in the region on Sept. 16 to perform at FarmAid, which he co-founded, at KeyBank Pavilion.

The Indiana rocker closed his set with “Cherry Bomb” — a song about old times, as he put it.

As a member of the Carter family, Carlene Carter is country royalty. She’s also still a livewire on stage. Carter is writing an autobiography in her mind that should be a wild read, if it ever comes out.

After her opening set, she later joined Mellencamp for the current single, “Grandview,” and a few other songs. “Grandview,” by the way, is a tough song with sparse Midwestern lyrics that only Mellencamp can write:

“Got out of high school.

Got on at Whirlpool.

Bought me a car, two guitars

and everything.”

The Canfield Fair concerts were part of a streak of great performances in the area. It began Aug. 24 when Zac Brown Band came to Stambaugh Stadium, and will continue Sept. 15 when the great Stevie Nicks returns to Covelli Centre.

Nicks toured earlier this year with Chrissie Hynde and the Pretenders, but the opening act for the Youngstown show will be Vanessa Carlton.

Guy D’Astolfo covers entertainment for The Vindicator. Follow him on Twitter at @VindyVibe.