Over the past couple of weeks, singer-songwriter Oliver Anthony (real name: Chris Lunsford) has seen his name recognition surge as his song “Rich Men North of Richmond,” which criticizes various issues including greedy politicians, high taxes, low pay, and issues surrounding the welfare system. A performance video, posted by radiowv on Aug. 7, has earned over 25 million views, while the song itself has topped the iTunes country chart and the Spotify Top 50-USA chart and seems to be a contender for the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100 chart when it arrives on Monday (Aug. 21).
Anthony brought his live show to fans in North Carolina over the weekend. On Saturday (Aug. 19), he spearheaded a free show at Eagle Creek Golf Club and Grill in Moyock, N.C., a tight-knit community just south of Norfolk, Va., with a population of just over 5,000 people (as of the 2020 census).
Attendees began showing up to the venue around 11 a.m., as lawn chairs and blankets proliferated across the grounds, and people packed in close to the stage, standing shoulder to shoulder prior to the singer-songwriter’s afternoon set. Some members of security estimated the day’s attendance roughly between 6,000 and 8,000 attendees.
Prior to his set, a drone could be seen flying over the crowd, while camera operators filmed crowd footage, noting it was intended to be used for an upcoming music video. A merch stand featured T-shirts emblazoned with Anthony’s name, with some of the shirts also bearing crosses or scriptures. A few lawn signs emblazoned with “Oliver Anthony 2024” were scattered across the lawn, while some children were sporting “Oliver Anthony for President” shirts.
The “Rich Men From North of Richmond” hitmaker took the stage, which was decorated with American flags, and began his afternoon set in a unique fashion; not with crashing cymbals or jangly guitar rhythms, but with prayer. The crowd stayed quiet as Anthony followed by reading a biblical scripture.
He began his set with “I Want to Go Home,” before offering up “Ain’t Gotta Dollar,” “’90 Some Chevy,” “I Gotta Get Sober” later performing his main draw, “Rich Men From North of Richmond.” No pyrotechnics, no flashy stage lights, no choreography; Anthony primarily stayed close to the microphone, playing a set heavy on mid-tempo songs. Though he noted at one point that his grizzled voice was a bit tired, he sounded strong as he rolled through a slate of songs he’s released over the past year or so.
Though some conservative-leaning media personalities were among the many sharing the song, initially helping it to gain traction, the artist himself made no political statement during the show, keeping his music front and center. He kept his comments to the crowd brief, primarily thanking them for their support of his music. At one point, the crowd began chanting “USA! USA!” and at another moment, a crowd member attempted to begin a “Let’s Go Brandon” anti-president Biden chant that quickly fizzled, even drawing criticism from some attendees seated farther from the stage. Other attendees held up American flags during the performance.
Though Jamey Johnson previously showed up as a surprise guest during one of Anthony’s previous shows; the Moyock show had no special guests, but the artist did reprise a performance of Johnson’s “In Color,” welcoming one of the day’s opening acts to the stage.
Here, we look at five standouts from the day:
A Canine Affair
It wasn’t only a few attendees who brought their beloved pooches to the laid-back outdoor concert; as Anthony was being escorted through the edge of the crowd to the stage — guitar in hand — he brought his three dogs with him; they later sat to the side of the stage during his performance.
“Rich Men North of Richmond”
Near the closing of his set, Anthony played the song that so many people came to hear — “Rich Men North of Richmond,” the song that has crested on numerous charts, including iTunes and Spotify. The area in front of the stage was a sea of cell phones, with some people standing atop picnic tables to get better views, as he sang his tale of rage against greed and injustice. Anthony led the majority of the first rendition of the song, until the swelling cheering of the crowd enticed him to sing it yet again; though this time, it seemed to be the audience’s time to shine, as they sang the words — particularly the intro verses bemoaning “workin’ all day/ Overtime hours for bulls— pay” — ever louder.
By the song’s conclusion, the crowd was chanting “One more time!” though instead of a third run through his hit, Anthony opted to move on in the set list.
Beyond “Rich Men”
Though Anthony’s “Rich Men From North of Richmond” has been a juggernaut, other songs from his catalog, including “Ain’t Gotta Dollar,” have also been surging and finding a following. As with “Rich Men,” some other songs touch on political scourging. A particular line in his song “Doggonit” elicited rowdy cheers from the crowd, as he gave both sides of the political aisle a musical upbraiding with the line “And Republicans and Democrats/ I swear they’re all just full of crap/ I ain’t never met a good city slicker bureaucrat.”
The concert at the Eagle Creek venue in Moyock, N.C., came together in a matter of days, thanks to scores of volunteers in the small community, who quickly assembled to handle everything from driving shuttles of attendees to the concert grounds to assisting with autograph lines.
When his set was finished, Anthony spent more than two hours with attendees, taking photos with fans and signing autographs on everything from T-shirts and boots to yes, dollar bills.