John Michael Montgomery, Archer/Park at Philip Morris Festival of Stars

>By Michael W. Stout

Louisville's recent thunderstorms and tornadoes can't hold a candle to the ruckus raised in Freedom Hall on May 4 when John Michael Montgomery headlined the free Philip Morris Festival of the Stars at Freedom Hall. The Nicholasville, Ky., farm boy arrived onstage in a pillar of smoke, head bowed and hands folded in anticipation of the volcano erupting. He wasted no time getting the capacity crowd on its feet and screaming with "Cowboy Love" and "Just Like a Rodeo" from his self-titled, third Atlantic album. After momentarily slowing the pace with "I Love the Way You Love Me," he tore into "Friday at Five" and "Kick It Up," energetically jumping as he crossed the width of the stage.

Montgomery's 80-minute set included major hits "Life's a Dance," "Beer and Bones," "Rope the Moon," "I Can Love You Like That," and the award-winning "I Swear." After heartily eating up these selections, the crowd totally devoured Montgomery's current smash hit, "Sold (The Grundy County Auction Incident)," and "Be My Baby Tonight." He was in top form this evening, dealing with one missed cue (which he attributed to the crowd making him nervous) by poking fun at himself.

Montgomery also treated the audience to a loud and rousing, nearly ten-minute electric guitar bonus which left him dripping with sweat. He is an incredible guitarist, but five minutes would have been long enough.

Newcomers Archer/Park performed an enjoyable 40-minute set despite pops, cracks, and squeals in the sound system. The duo performed tunes such as "Where There's Smoke," "We Got a Lot In Common," and "I Still Wanna Jump Your Bones" from their debut album.

Their most well-received and best performed song was the Keith Whitley classic "Don't Close Your Eyes," with Randy Archer on lead vocals. By far the most memorable aspect of their set was the incredible harmonica solos that raised the hair on the back of the neck.

Hats off to Philip Morris for another awesome Festival of the Stars show with the winning combination of Archer/Park and John Michael Montgomery. Keep your eyes and ears open for another John Michael Montgomery appearance in the area because this guy is a must-see and he's gonna "Rope the Moon."