Manistee, MI (September 21, 2023) – On Saturday evening, country music fans visit the Little River Casino Resort in Manistee, MI as Michael Ray makes a tour stop inside the Mawka Endaat Bear Den Event Center.
The singer-songwriter is out on tour across the country promoting his newly released (June 2023) six song EP, Dive Bars And Broken Hearts on the Warner Music Nashville record label. The EP is Ray’s fourth EP that is accompanied with two more studio albums, Michael Ray (2015) and Amos (2018).
Michael Ray takes the stage in Manistee with his 2015 debut single “Kiss You In The Morning.” With a microphone in his hand, he jumps back and forth from one side of the stage to the other acknowledging those in the front rows of the standing only pit in front of the stage. As the song dampens down he comments to the large gathering, “I don’t cancel shows unless there’s some real casualties…I have been battling a sinus infection, but I was not going to cancel this show…so if you know the words, you can help me out.” The crowd responds with accompanying him with “Holy Water” and “Get To You.”
Introducing himself to the crowd, he thanks everyone for coming and emphasizes how happy he is to be playing this evening. Michael adds that he is going to play some country music and turn this casino into an old honky tonk.
Ray continues with songs off the new EP including the title track “Dive Bars And Broken Hearts” and “Don’t Give A Truck” in which he grabs an acoustic guitar to assist. While showing appreciation to the band’s mothers, Michael sings the Joe Diffie cover of “Pickup Man” to commend them for allowing their boys to drive out of the driveway and pursue their musical dreams.
Getting the crowd worked up into a frenzy, the band leaves the stage as Michael showing a grin on his face asks them if they are winning and how their day with college football scores were doing. The big inner state college rival game was going on as the same time of the show, so many were shouting out their pleasure or displeasure with the game. As Michael laughs, he adds that where he comes from in Florida, you don’t discuss the games because of the unfortunate luck of the team as of late. But at the same time, you do not discuss politics and religion because all three can cause a major meltdown in conversation and peoples attitudes. He however does talk about the armed services as his grandfather served and that Michael supports them. The family is made of music with a family band called The Brothers Cousin. Along with the music, Michael is eighth generation to his family’s 30 acre farm land. With the guitar still hanging from his neck and the band still off stage refilling their cups, he performs “Didn’t Know I Was Country.”
Continuing with a slow ballad, the band returns for the emotional account of “Her World Or Mine,” before pushing the limits with a rock medley during his band’s introductions. The medley consists of “Sweet Emotions” (Aerosmith), “Enter Sandman” (Metallica), “Pretty Woman” (Roy Orbison) and “La Grange” (ZZ Top) as the band consists of Eddie Castineira (lead guitar), Jeff Coleman (lead guitar), Pat McCarthy (bass guitar and keys) and Derrick Young (drums).
Still having fun and feeling a bit rowdy, Michael and his band strike it up with the 2021 tune “Higher Education.” The studio versions includes vocals by Kid Rock, Lee Brice, Billy Gibbons and Tim Montana.
Closing out the show, Michael thanks the crowd for coming and supporting him and his band as they conclude with his 2016 hit “Think A Little Less.”
Michael and band return to the stage while addressing the screaming and chanting crowd for an encore that includes his latest single “Spirits And Demons” that he shares with his duet partner Meghan Patrick.
You can’t perform a country show and have a rock medley without adding a country medley to the mix, so Michael and his band comply with their version of country with “Ring Of Fire” (Johnny Cash), “Rodeo” (Garth Brooks), “Copperhead Road” (Steve Earle) and “Mountain Music” (Alabama).
With the crowd all amped up from the medley, Michael puts a cap on the evening with some “Whiskey And Rain” before the lights of the stage go dark for another evening.
The crowd was very supportive to Ray and showed their appreciation to him throughout the show at times, for him sticking it out and continuing with his show although being stuck under the weather with sickness. There were times where it became evident and rough for him to hit certain notes in songs and other times, you would have never realized he was ill.
Thank you to Michael Ray and band for being the professionals that you are. By showing you are only human and sticking it out although you were not feeling well won the hearts of some of them in attendance who didn’t really know who you were until that night. For others who do know you, this night is the reason they love you.
Thank you also goes out to the Little River Casino Resort and their friendly and helpful staff that makes the evening enjoyable for all who attend the shows and resort.
Words by: Leslie Reasoner
Photos by: John Reasoner
Michael Ray setlist:
- Kiss You In The Morning 2. Holy Water 3. Get To You 4. Small Town Small (Jason Aldean cover) 5. Run Away With You (Big And Rich cover) 6. Just The Way I Am 7. Dive Bars And Broken Hearts 8. Don’t Give A Truck 9. Pickup Man (Joe Diffie cover) 10. One That Got Away 11. Didn’t Know I Was Country 12. Her World Or Mine 13. Rock Medley: Sweet Emotions (Aerosmith cover), Enter Sandman (Metallica cover), Pretty Woman (Roy Orbison cover), La Grange (ZZ Top cover) 14. Get Her Back 15. Hate This Town 16. Higher Education 17. Think A Little Less Encore: 18. Spirits And Demons 19. Working On It 20. Country Medley: Ring Of Fire (Johnny Cash cover), Rodeo (Garth Brooks), Copperhead Road (Steve Earle cover), Mountain Music (Alabama) 21. Whiskey And Rain
Little River Casino Resort