From the safety of their socials, the stars come out to cheer housebound fans with music and encouragement during the COVID-19 pandemic

By Nancy Kruh
March 24, 2020 05:00 PM

No band, no stage, no problem. Country fans are discovering you don’t need a lot to enjoy live country music these days as an ever-growing number of artists are taking to their socials to perform impromptu shows.

Watch a marathon of them, as PEOPLE has done (in self-isolation, of course), and it’s abundantly clear that more than good music is happening here. These shows are love bonds being made between stars and their fans — virtual bulwarks from the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Luke Bryan, Keith Urban, Brad Paisley
Getty Images (3)

Feeling alone? Need a pick-me-up? Let Luke Combs, Keith Urban, Luke Bryan and more tell you they miss you and care about you and want you to stay safe. (And, for heaven’s sake, wash your hands!) Still need more human connection? Watch the endless streams of fan comments turn into rainbows of heartwarming emotion.

The shows just keep coming, so watch social media for announcements. Though not all are archived, there’s still a huge pool of performances just waiting for your deep dive. Here are some stellar ones to pick from:

BRAD PAISLEY, 58 minutes:
With his actress wife, Kimberly Williams-Paisley, serving as videographer, country’s king of merriment performs before a “live” audience of their two sons’ stuffed animal collection. The axemaster powers down, unplugging for a 15-song acoustic set of greatest hits and covers, mostly inspired by fan requests. Most memorable moment: Paisley stifling sobs as he tries to make his way through “In the Garden,” one of his favorite gospel songs. Bonuses: Carrie Underwood, Tim McGraw and Chris Young show up virtually for duets.

RUSSELL DICKERSON, 54 minutes:
“I’m losing my mind honestly — is anyone else losing their mind?” the usually unbound Dickerson confesses at the show’s start, and then he channels all that pent-up energy into an exultant 14-song set. Besides his hits, Dickerson also offers generous helpings from his much-anticipated upcoming album. Most memorable moments: A FaceTime call with Thomas Rhett and Dickerson’s performance of “Yours,” personally delivered to the song’s inspiration, his wife, Kailey. Bonuses: A tour of the Dickersons’ gorgeous new (and completely renovated) Nashville-area home and Dickerson’s exercise demonstration with a 16-pack of toilet paper.

CHRIS YOUNG, 48 minutes:
Young is in full kickback mode in workout shorts, ballcap and with a beard coming on. “Brad Paisley I’m not,” he warns at the start, but his ample guitar skills carry him through a nine-song set. You’ll get the expected hits, but he shines equally on such surprise covers as Garth Brooks’ “Papa Loves Mama” and Doug Stone’s “I Thought It Was You.” Most memorable moment: Young’s performance of the early (and deep) Brad Paisley cut “I Wish You’d Stay,” capped off by a FaceTime call from Paisley, who playfully demands royalties. Bonus: Young’s rambunctious German shepherd, Porter, who finally ends the show when nature calls.

KEITH URBAN, 32 minutes:
Streaming from his private warehouse, Urban goes electric while a bandmate (at a safe distance) provides a range of backing tracks. “I’m basically playing karaoke,” Urban jests, but the full sound is anything but as he cycles through six hits. Most memorable moment: When Urban thrusts the mic toward the camera, so you’ll sing along with an ecstatic “Wasted Time” — and, trust us, you will. Bonus: Urban’s Oscar-winning wife, Nicole Kidman, who dances in and out of camera range during the entire show. “I’ve got an audience of one,” Urban says at the start. “I’ve gotta have someone to play to!”

GRAND OLE OPRY, 84 minutes:
The longest-running radio show of all time isn’t about to let an ol’ virus stop its streak, and the Opry is going live with video, as well as radio, these days. Saturday’s show was truly one for the ages: Marty Stuart, Vince Gill, and Paisley — among the three greatest pickers of all time — fill the empty Opry House with country comfort, beginning with Gill’s tender performance of “Sweet Music Man,” a tribute to Hall of Famer Kenny Rogers, whose death had been announced earlier in the day. (This link includes that performance at the show’s start.) Other memorable moments: Stuart playing Jimmie Rodgers’ “No Hard Times” on a guitar once owned by the man considered the father of country music, Gill singing his classic “Go Rest High on That Mountain” with his newly added third verse, and Paisley ending “This Is Country Music” with the chorus of Rogers’ “The Gambler.”

LUKE BRYAN, 30 minutes:
Broadcasting from the shuttered cigar shop he owns in Watersound Beach, Florida, Bryan looks like he’s been living the “Sunrise, Sunburn, Sunset, Repeat” life in his self-isolation. “I think we need to chill out,” he counsels and then provides a soundtrack for it. His five-song sets leans heavily on his upcoming album with one blast from the past, “We Rode in Trucks,” from 2007. Most memorable moment: The rare pleasure of actually hearing Bryan’s acoustic guitar play, which is surprisingly skillful.

LUKE COMBS, 20 minutes:
With his trusty double-decker Solo cup at the ready, Combs performs in his garage, which he appears to have converted into a man cave. Promising to post a performance a week until the self-isolation lifts, Combs delivers two classics (“When It Rains It Pours” and “Hurricane”), a brand-new song (“When It’s Raining”) and a cover of Tracy Chapman’s 1988 hit “Fast Car.” Most memorable moment: The Chapman cover is a shocker, but Combs’ rich voice makes the song of hope and desperation his own. Bonus: Wow, he’s got a lot of gold and platinum plaques on his wall.

CHRIS JANSON, 57 minutes:
Through 14 songs, Janson shows off his trademark high energy even while sitting on his couch. Wife Kelly and 8-year-old daughter Georgia ably manage the camerawork and offer the occasional comment and song request. Most memorable moment: When Janson endearingly forgets the words to No. 1 hit “Fix a Drink.” “Gosh darn it,” he says, laughing. “I never have a mental block like that except when I’m playing to a chair and a phone.” Bonus: Georgia, the subject of “Holding Her,” requests “Holding Her.” Dad, of course, happily obliges.

ERIC PASLAY, TENILLE TOWNES, ABBY ANDERSON, 73 minutes:
The three, who had to cancel their UK tour, perform “Brady Bunch” style in three separate windows, and they provide a cautionary tale about technology: You’ll want to skip ahead about 10 minutes until they figure out how to stop an annoying echo. Once they hit their stride, the virtual guitar pull is a delight, and their mutual admiration is as fun to experience as the music. Memorable moments: Townes‘ “Holding Out for the One,” Anderson’s “Best Year of My Life” and Paslay’s “Barefoot Blue Jean Night,” which he co-wrote. Bonus: Anderson‘s blissed-out expressions as she grooves to the others’ songs.

GABBY BARRETT, 39 minutes:
Wearing pajama pants and sitting in her Nashville living room, Barrett performs five songs, including the unreleased “Thank God,” and she answers real-time fan questions. (Funniest thing to happen to her so far in quarantine? “I burned a bunch of biscuits I made.”) Her husband and fellow American Idol alum, Cade Foehner, offers able guitar accompaniment, as well as lots of flirtation with his wife. (These two are newlywed adorbs.) Most memorable moment: Their powerhouse duet of Tim McGraw’s and Faith Hill‘s “Like We Never Loved at All.” Bonus: Foehner delivers his faith testimony at the show’s end.

TRAVIS DENNING, 60 minutes:
If you’re a guy going through withdrawal not being around your bar pals, here’s the perfect antidote. For a full hour, Denning banters his way into being your best drinking buddy — complete with a toe-rattling belch after shotgunning a White Claw Mango Hard Seltzer. Oh, yes, he also ably sings seven songs, including hit single “After a Few,” and shows off his guitar chops. Most memorable moments: FaceTime calls with Chris Young, Dustin Lynch, Jon Pardi and Hardy. Bonus: Denning’s mixology lesson on the perfect Margarita.

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