Lee Brice is uniquely capable to dig deeper into the emotions of his songs than almost any country artist not named Garth. At times, he even evoked the country legend during a 90-minute show at Country Jam in Grand Junction, Co. It was a set that relied on hits, the crowd's energy and his very talented band.

Early vocal troubles were quickly forgotten by the time Brice got to "She Ain't Right" and "Life Off My Years." He marched to the stage during the introduction of "Hard to Love" and within seconds was closing his eyes and wincing, as if remembering all the reasons he is hard to love at once. Brice's body language is as important as his big country voice. When he reaches for the big cathartic moments like those found toward the end of "Love Like Crazy," one truly feels as if it is taking years off his life.

In this way, he's built like Garth Brooks. To an uninterested observer, both look to be over-performing, but the live audience loves every wince, cringe, tear-jerking moment of despair and smile. There are plenty of smiles during a Lee Brice show. Before singing a singalong anthem called "Beer" he walked to a Marshall amplifier and revealed it was actually a fully-stocked refrigerator. After chugging one Bud Light, he handed a few out to fans in the front rows. They were deserving and surely appreciative — waiting in the Colorado heat all day to see your favorite singer perform makes anyone a little thirsty.

"More Than a Memory" and "Crazy Girl" (Brice helped write this song for the Eli Young Band) were highlights. He admitted that both were inspired by college ex-girlfriends, and performed both with only electric guitar, no band. This raw risk epitomizes what makes Brice special. He's never been afraid to go for it, and then go for it again if the results aren't what he hoped for.

An uptempo, slide guitar-driven rocker called "Little Things" followed — the only new song he'd play on Thursday night (June 16) — and then he'd begin the thrilling descent to the show's conclusion. "Drinking Class" didn't disappoint. A band solo that led to Queen's "Fat Bottom Girls" lit up the still-packed field in western Colorado. With mountains behind him and the day's heat making room for a desert chill, he turned "Parking Lot Party" into an all-call with earlier Country Jam performers Chase Bryant and Halfway to Hazard before leaving momentarily.

"I Don't Dance" was his encore, and as it turns out, his favorite song that he sings. Brice started the song on piano, but ultimately led a Country Jam singalong with fans whose cell phone lights were bright enough to block out the stars. A ballad for an encore? When you've got one as good as this — and you're able to perform it like Brooks does "The Dance" — there's no other choice.

Tyler Farr and Stephanie Quayle also kicked off the first day of Country Jam. Brad Paisley will headline Friday night, with Blake Shelton and Zac Brown Band finishing the festival on Saturday and Sunday.

Lee Brice Talks About Hazing, Father's Day and His Favorite Song

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