Hicks rocked CN Centre

The Get Loud Tour certainly was.

It turned out to be, as the Tim Hicks lyric goes, a hell-raisin' good time.

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Three of Canada's hottest country acts were on stage together, at CN Centre on Thursday night. Andrew Hyatt opened the night, Tebey was the middle ground, and Hicks was the headliner.

All three of these guys have enjoyed time on the Canadian country charts in the past year, and Tebey is actually No. 1 right now with the smooth single Who's Gonna Love You. It was almost a disappointment to only get a whiff of Hyatt, who had a steady stream of quality material and a sense about him that's he's on the brink of a breakout.

Hyatt's voice is not powerful but it's expressive and musical. He has a sense of songs (written by others or his own) that fit his range and his personality, and he let some of that show as well which is always a positive experience for an audience. It felt like I knew him a little better after this show.

Tebey has already broken out. When you add up all the singles he didn't play and all the ones people could sing along to, and the cover he did that lit up radio - a countrified version of dance-pop hit Wake Me Up (When It's All Over) - and you've got the makings of a headliner who happened to be on the under-card this time. One more big hit (he's had two of the biggest singles of the past year in Canada) and he'll be at the top of the marquee from then on. He has a big voice and a big personality. He will soon be etched into the history of Canadian country music as one of the best of his generation.

Hicks has climbed his ladder quickly. When he was one of the outdoor festival performers at the Canada Winter Games in Prince George only three years ago, he was a hot new commodity. In that small window of time he has doubled (or more) that reputation.

All his songs have a common thread and it plays in his favour for being a headliner. They are power anthems. He has the vocal chops and the bubbly attitude to make his show a memorable experience, and he has the song material to make it a sing-along experience.

But let's just admit something here. Let's take a deep breath, let the realization sink in for us all, and say out loud what is evident but unspoken: Hicks, like so many of his peers, is not a country performer. He may have a bit of twang in his voice, he may have some banjo in the instrumentation, but he. is. not. country.

And that's OK.

It's OK to be a rock star. That's what he is.

I'm certainly not saying he shouldn't be played on country radio. In fact, if I'm saying anything, it's that he and his brothers in arms should also be played on rock radio. There was a time when being a crossover artist was where the superstars were born. Think of Dolly Parton, Ray Charles, Mickey Gilley, Nat King Cole, Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley etc. all back in the day. They were crossovers between country and pop.

In more modern times it is kd lang, then Miley Cyrus and Taylor Swift who started in country then moved to pop, and there are Kid Rock, Sheryl Crow and Bon Jovi who morphed from rock into the country scene.

The resistance seems to be in the rock radio format that used to think nothing of playing the country sounds of Lynyrd Skynyrd or Neil Young or John Mellencamp but these days just can't seem to accept the obvious: Hicks (and many others like him) are rockers.

They do it well and proudly and loudly in concert, and the Prince George audience will agree after Thursday's show, but it would be nice if they got some rock format airtime where they rightly belong.

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