On the eve of Labor Day weekend this year, many Athenians of all ages poured into the Georgia Theatre to hear former American Idol runner up, Caleb Lee Hutchinson, perform some of country music’s greatest. He charmed the audience with his original songs, covers and even some country renditions of popular hip-hop songs.
Hutchinson took the stage in a University of Georgia shirt to represent his love for the school and city, following his opening act: up-and-coming country singer, Ashley Walls. Walls is also a UGA fan and made multiple lyric changes throughout her performance to refer to current events happening on campus, such as fraternity pledge ship. Her sweet voice with eccentric lyrics captivated the audience with her original songs and covers. After swaying everyone with her cover of “Tin Man” by Miranda Lambert, it was time for Hutchinson to make an appearance.
Growing up in Paulding County, Georgia, Hutchinson is your typical small-town boy who made it big, especially with the help of American Idol. He was specifically known for dating the winner of the same season, Maddie Poppe. He stated in an interview with The Atlanta-Journal Constitution he was “hoping and praying that Maddie would win just because [he’s] team Maddie.” They are still together to this day according to Maddie, and he mentioned her various times throughout the show.
At the beginning of Hutchinson’s performance, all those gathered in Georgia Theatre were on their feet and excited as he started out strong, performing an energetic, rock ’n’ roll type of song. He then moved on to play some fan favorites, and some of his own, as well as covers of hip-hop songs such as “Better Now” by Post Malone. After performing the first few songs, the audience felt a sense of familiarity as Hutchinson acknowledged how many faces he recognized in the crowd, as if to say that this will always be home to him no matter how big he makes it.
“It’s weird being here and being invited to come play for all of these folks who have been my neighbors,” Hutchinson said in an interview with his alma mater, South Paulding High School.
Hutchinson stated multiple times throughout the concert that performing at the Georgia Theatre was a dream of his and was a humbling experience for him.. His love for the community and family poured through his performance as he demonstrated it in ways such as getting the entire venue to sing happy birthday to his brother and by talking to a close friend that he saw in the crowd.
To end his performance, Hutchinson flaunted his personality a little more by playing the popular single “Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X alone and under a single spotlight. He then played more of his singles, some being performed live for the first time, and a few covers of other songs by popular country artists such as Luke Combs and George Strait.
Hutchinson may have gained his fame from a reality television show, but he represented his community in a familiar way which reminded his audience you are never too far from home. It was a humbling experience for him and for the people of Athens as well to be able to experience this moment with him and watch him live his dream.