“Hey, Columbus,” Ketch Secor said as Old Crow Medicine Show took the KEMBA Live! stage. “Let’s get ready to rock ‘n’ roll.”

Just as the rainy and warm Jan. 25 weather made winter feel like spring, the seven ostensibly bluegrass/country Medicine men proceeded to create the feel of an arena-rock concert on the show-opening “Tell it to Me,” performed with the exuberance of a final encore as the band members danced around the stage like preschoolers overdosing on caffeine. That the music was as tight as the players were loose is just another part of Old Crow’s irresistible appeal.

The trend continued on the aptly titled “Alabama High-Test” and – despite the occasional balladic breather that included a single-mic look back at musicians who died in 2023 with a medley of Sinead O’Connor’s “Nothing Compares 2 U,” CSN’s “Teach Your Children,” Gordon Lightfoot’s “Early Morning Rain” and Jimmy Buffett’s “Margaritaville” – carried on across the two-hour set that chronicled OCMS’ sonic evolution from the Bob Dylan leftover-cum-huge-hit “Wagon Wheel” to the social commentary of “Louder than Guns.”

And by the time the rambunctious, early-set “Carry Me Back” screeched to a dime-stop close, the respectable-for-a-Thursday crowd was crackling with as much electricity as the band. The glorious transfer of energy from stage to floor and back continued all evening, whether the band members were arrayed at their individual mics singing two- to seven-part harmonies or lined up at the lip of the stage tossing harmonicas and guitar picks to the audience.

Aligned before a circus-tent backdrop and trading instruments and swapping lead-vocal duties, the Old Crows – Secor (fiddle, keys, harmonica, guitar, ukulele banjo); Cory Younts (mandolin, melodica, banjo, keys, harmonica); acoustic and electric bassist Morgan Jahnig; PJ George (banjo, accordion, mandolin, fiddle, guitar, drums); Mike Harris (guitar, mandolin, banjo, Dobro); Dante’ Pope (drums, percussion, keys); and Mason Via on guitar, guitjo and mandolin – used their incomparable musicianship to transform CCR’s “Proud Mary” into a hybrid soul-grass revue with dueling fiddles; present “Tequila” as a drunken barn dance; and unroll “C.C. Rider” as a piano-driven blues with Pope on keys and the mic while George held steady at the kit. 

Shades of the Band. But this band of denim-clad, cowboy-hat-topped musical brothers, is, despite the covers – including an angry rendition of “Ohio” and its celebratory antithesis “Hang on Sloopy” with new, location-specific lyrics – its own singular thing. This is what makes an OCMS show one of the only places on Earth a concertgoer can find himself in the 1950s singing to “Great Balls of Fire;” straddling the distant and recent past while dancing down the middle of “Dixie Avenue;” and lustily cheering Secor’s taunting of Ohio’s fear-mongering Statehouse. 

“Trans kids can dance here, too,” he declared. 

And they – and we – did as Old Crow Medicine Show proved the healing music they peddle is anything but snake oil.