Staff Photo: John Bohn Blake Shelton performs a concert at The Arena at Gwinnett Center Friday night.
DULUTH -- Anna Blount and her two friends, Blaire Berto and Alex Willis of Lambert High School, have been waiting since the end of December to see Blake Shelton in concert when they received their tickets as gifts for the holidays. They decided to make it a girl's night.
"We got these tickets for Christmas," Blount said. "We've been planning this night for a while."
The three girls weren't the only ones pumped about seeing the country star. Thousands of fans came out to the Arena at Gwinnett Center on Friday night with handmade posters, 10-gallon hats, tight blue jeans and embroidered cowboy boots.
Shelton's fans swarmed the outside of the arena, as well as tail gated in both of Gwinnett Center's massive parking lots.
"We heard about the concert on Kicks 101.5 with Cadillac Jack and we said, if that's on a Friday, we have to go," Jo Christ of Lilburn said with hanging out with his friends. "We fell in love with Blake from 'The Voice,' his concerts and his music."
Cathy Phagan of Lawrenceville felt the same way about the Oklahoma native.
"He's got good music and he's very down to Earth," she said. "We hope he's in a good mood because that's a hard thing to deal with."
Phagan was referring the recent loss of Shelton's father. On Jan. 17, the singer lost his father, Dick Shelton to declining health and cancelled shows in Rapid City, S.D., Bismarck, N.D., and Billings and Bozeman, Mont.
He was back on the road to perform in Columbus on Thursday night, then traveled to Duluth.
Shelton brought Dia Frampton of "The Voice" and Justin Moore with him on tour. Frampton opened the show as the crowd trickled into the arena. When Moore took the stage, the arena was almost completely packed to the rafters getting the audience ready for the main attraction.
A few minutes before 9:30 p.m., all of the lights went out in the arena, a large black curtain dropped on stage and white and blue lights flooded over the crowd. Before anyone knew it, Shelton had been lowered onto the stage from a round platform and began to belt out a cover of Kenny Loggins' hit, "Footloose," which was used in the recent 2011 remake of the '80s classic flick.
Without hesitation, Shelton switched guitars to sing "All About Tonight," a party anthem about enjoying the night without worrying about tomorrow, which made the fans explode with excitement.
He then slowed the show down with the sad ballet, "She Wouldn't Be Gone."
Fans of all ages, children to grandparents, came to the show.
"We knew it would be a good time," Phagan said.
Shelton plays in Pensacola, Fla. tonight.