Cody Johnson at the Houston Rodeo: From last minute replacement to 73K fans

The past six years of RodeoHouston have chronicled the evolution of RodeoHouston.

YOU’RE PROBABLY WRONG: Which Houston Rodeo show drew the largest crowd this year?

The Sebastopol native, who made his fifth appearance on Friday night, was a last-minute replacement in 2017 for country group Old Dominion. He recounted the moment on stage, saying he had “three days notice, I think” to prepare.

That first show drew just over 60,000. All have since passed the 70,000 mark, including Friday’s crowd of 73,144. Johnson recorded the official RodeoHouston theme song, “Welcome to the Show,” in 2019. He opened the 2022 season.

She recorded with Brooks & Dunn and Reba McEntire and had her first #1 country single. 1, “‘Til You Can’t”.

“I’ve been waiting all year for this,” he said.

The show kicked off at 9pm sharp, the first so far this year. (Most shows kicked off around 9:15 p.m. or later.) Johnson, in a green-shirted St. Patrick’s Day, leapt off a truck and raced to nab one of the stage’s rising star spots as his band launched into “Texas Kind di Via.”

He is one of the best at using the entire stage and walked up many of the ramps during the set. Garth Brooks is a clear influence. Lots of running, yelping and crowd shaking between songs.

Johnson features a rough exterior, part of his upbringing as a rodeo rider and prison guard. But he’s a bit of a softie at heart. His songs are romantic odes (“Diamond in My Pocket”) or ambitious anthems about living your dreams (“Til You Can’t”).

Sometimes he stopped to capture the moment and said he met old friend Rick Garza before the show, owner of the Big Texas Dance Hall in the spring. It closed in 2020.

“It reminded me of the times I’d come to the club and beg, beg, beg to play. We’d ask for $300 and a bar bill,” Johnson said. “On nights like this, playing the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo to sold out crowds, I remember where I came from.”

The bluesy “Nothin’ on You”, an ode to becoming “nekkid”, was dedicated to Johnson’s wife. “Son of a Ramblin’ Man” was a real barn burner. He preceded a cover of Charlie Daniels’ “Long Haired Country Boy” with his obligatory speech about honoring first responders and the military, though he was a little overwhelmed by the band.

“‘Til You Can’t” was the fitting close, Johnson’s biggest hit to date. But it was a cover of McEntire’s “Whoever’s in New England,” just Johnson’s textured vocals and guitar, that really showcased his star power.

Cody Johnson’s RodeoHouston lineup

“Texas Kind of Way””Let’s Light a Fire””Diamond in Your Pocket””Coming Your Way””Nothing About You””Son of a Rampant Man””Dear Rodeo””Human””Long Haired Country” Boy” “Me and My Kind””Whoever’s in New England”””Til You Can’t”

More Rodeo reviews by Joey Guerra

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