The finale of the summer’s Twilight Concert Series proved to be the perfect after-party Thursday for the University of Utah Utes’ season-opening football win over Northern Colorado.
More than 26,500 concertgoers walked through the gates to the show featuring opening act R & B singer Aloe Blacc and headliner and rapper Common, making it the highest-attended Twilight Concert of the season.
At the outset of the Pioneer Park show, the crowd was sparse; it appeared that the perfect storm of the home games of the Utes, Brigham Young University and Utah State football teams, along with Burning Man and Gov. Mitt Romney accepting the GOP nomination for presidency, had kept the crowds otherwise occupied.
But as soon as the Utes finished off Northern Colorado with an overwhelming 41-0 victory, thousands of Ute fans — already delirious and a little buzzed — rode TRAX from Rice-Eccles Stadium to the TRAX stop near Pioneer Park across town. Between 8:30 and 9 p.m., lines getting into the concert were packed with Ute fans wearing red jerseys and hats. Many wore shirts representing Utah’s student fan club, the MUSS.
The night was even more of a event when Utah native Jef Holm, founder of local bottled-water company People Water, brought his wife-to-be Emily Maynard onstage to greet the crowd. The couple, who recently became engaged on the most recent season of the ABC hit reality series “The Bachelorette,” announced that Maynard, a Charlotte resident, was in Salt Lake City for the first time.
“It is so beautiful here,” Maynard gushed in a Tribune interview later in the evening. “It’s so much different from Charlotte.”
Holm said it was his third Twilight Concert of the summer, and that he would be moving to Charlotte within the next few weeks to be with his fiancee.
But in the end, the night was about the music. Blacc, a virtual unknown to people outside of the R & B community, immediately captured the crowd’s attention from the outset and didn’t let go until his 70-minute set was over. With a six-piece backing band featuring a robust horn duo of trumpet and saxophone, the sharply dressed Blacc won the audience over with his blend of socially conscious lyrics and gang-busters soul sound.
With Blacc starting late and Common not taking the stage until about 9 p.m., the huge influx of Ute fans were treated to nearly, if not all, of the Chicago rapper’s headlining set. Accompanied by a bassist, turntablist, drummer and keyboardist, the sweat-drenched Common launched a bass-heavy, throbbing set that must have made the guests at the Residence Inn across the street regret staying there that night (even though Thursday at the Residence Inn is hamburger and hot dog night).
The successful night was in ways a referendum for the Salt Lake City Arts Council’s controversial decision to charge an admission fee — $5 — for the first time in the concert series’ 25 years of existence. The concert also showed that hip hop is the biggest draw for the young audiences the series appeals to; next to Thursday night’s show, the most-attended Twilight Concert of the season was New York City rapper Nas on July 19.
It was a happy ending for the series, just as happy as Holm and Maynard’s most perfect union.