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By the time Hunter Hayes took the stage late Friday afternoon at the sold-out Garde Arts Center in New London, he probably didn’t remember where he woke up.
After all, that would have been four whole gigs ago.
The 22-year-old country-pop star, celebrating his brand-new “Storyline” album, was in the midst of a frenzied “Hunter Hayes’ 24 Hour Road Race to End Child Hunger” — in which he was attempting to set a Guinness world record by playing 10 shows in 10 cities in one 24-hour period. His New London set, then, was already his fifth concert of the day.
By 3 p.m., outside the Garde and trailing down State Street, a tangibly excited crowd — mostly young females — waited outside for the doors to open, doing their best to impersonate the Beatles’ mob scene from “A Hard Day’s Night.”
Astonishingly, given the reality of I-95 traffic, Hayes and company arrived early and were able to move up their start time considerably — from 7 p.m. to 5:30; fortunately, through social media, stragglers made it in time. It also helped that “Road Race” logistics included two production crews hopscotching venues, so all was in place by the time Hayes and his five-piece band hit town.
For the record, they performed “Wild Heart,” “Storm Warning,” “Invisible” and “I Want Crazy.” Hayes displayed blistering guitar fretwork, the energy of a gymnast, and was gracious in appreciation of the crowd and their support of the “End Child Hunger” campaign.
True, his voice seemed thin and he was straining to hit high notes, but it’s important to remember Hayes was essentially scheduled to sing about 200 on-and-off-again minutes over the course of the trek. What with the cool-off period between each stop, and a start-stop travel schedule, it’s all brutal on the throat. But, with the wisdom of a veteran, Hayes was more than happy to solicit the adoring audience’s help in singing the refrains to “Invisible” and “I Want Crazy” — and it all only added to the fun.
In addition to the Garde and “Good Morning America” gigs, Hayes’ one-day itinerary included stops in Boston and Worcester, Mass., and Providence, R.I. He was scheduled to follow New London with performances in New Haven, Stamford, South Orange and Asbury Park, N.J., before concluding the “Road Race” in Philadelphia. The Hayes band then leaves on Sunday for Japan.
Opening all of the “Road Race” gigs was Dean Alexander (seen leaving New London’s Spindrift Guitars shortly before his own half-hour show), who did a fine job introducing himself and hooky tunes like “Live a Little” to the Hayes-happy congregation.