Atkins and his band performed 12 songs, including his singles Cleaning This Gun (Come On In Boy), Watching You, Invisibly Shaken, Wasted Whiskey and If You’re Going Through Hell (Before the Devil Even Knows). (Ben Kleppinger)

By Breck Norment

When Rodney Atkins took the stage in Alumni Coliseum, the crowd rose to its feet and a roar filled the arena to greet Atkins’ first song of the night: These Are My People.Atkins, the 39-year-old country singer-songwriter and the 2006 Academy of Country Music top new male vocalist, performed at Eastern April 9.

Before the show started, fog billowed across the stage for the light show. Entire families were decked out in cowboy hats and boots while others wore tractor company shirts and hats. Friends embraced and stretched out their arms for cameras to capture the moment. Others danced and laughed as the overhead lights began to fade and the stage lights illuminated the Coliseum.

“It’s very crowded and exciting and energetic,” said Jessica Stetson, an 18-year-old special education major from Cincinnati, Ohio.

Nineteen hundred tickets were sold by the day of the show and officials said they expected 2,500. Atkins was the first of several concerts this week at Eastern.

“I think it fits in well with our plan to have a major country show, a major rock show and a major rap show all in one week,” said Justin Hobbs, concert chair for the Students Activities Council.

Early during the show, Atkins grabbed a spotlight and aimed it at the crowd. The light panned around to reveal hundreds of animated fans standing and cheering. As he scanned the crowd, Atkins showed his appreciation for their support.

“What an honor, look at this,” Atkins said.

Atkins had six enthusiastic band members to accompany his high-energy personality. They performed 12 songs, plus an additional two encores after applause summoned them back to the stage.

Between songs, Atkins thanked the audience for its support and also introduced the next song he would perform.

“Country music, that’s all we’ve got for you all tonight. I hope that’s okay,” Atkins said, tossing guitar picks to fans between songs.

One of Atkins’ key performances was his new hit Cleaning This Gun (Come On In Boy), which is his fourth straight No. 1 song on Billboard’s Hot Country Singles chart. Other notable songs included Watching You, Invisibly Shaken, Wasted Whiskey and his last number before the encore, If You’re Going Through Hell (Before the Devil Even Knows). Most of the crowd remained standing for the entire show, but its volume exploded during these numbers.

Atkins left the stage to stroll among the audience during a few songs, and some spectators were impressed.

“I like how he gets out in the crowd and makes them part of it,” said Daniel Zembordt, a 20-year-old fire science major from Boone County.

Others appreciated his personality as a performer.

“He looked like he was having fun with everybody and he was happy to be there,” said Janalee Strait, a 22-year-old elementary education major from Springfield, Ohio.

Audio problems have plagued past concerts in Alumni Coliseum, but some students said the acoustics were fine.

“I could hear him really well,” said Tara House, a 23-year-old elementary education major from Cincinnati, Ohio.

House had seen Atkins before in concert and said she couldn’t wait to see him again.

“He’s very genuine,” House said.

Toward the end of the concert, Atkins signed autographs for fans in the rows around the stage. One student even removed a boot, which Atkins signed. Atkins began to take notice of how many fans wanted autographs. He told them he appreciated their support and that he would come out and sign autographs after the show.

Atkins was polite and soft-spoken to the fans. When told that his concert would receive a good review, he said simply, “Very cool.