It's an oppressively humid July morning, but the crowd gathered on the TODAY plaza doesn't seem to mind. If anything, fans seem festive in spite of having spent most of the night either traveling to get there or sleeping on the pavement. And there's an undeniable good-time vibe in the air.
Maybe it's because it's the weekend. But more likely it's because they know that they're only moments away from seeing what they've been waiting hours for: country superstar Brad Paisley.
Though the skies above 30 Rockefeller Center are growing increasingly dark, no one's looking up. Nope, they're looking forward, and it's not long before eager fans are rewarded for their patience.
Dressed all in black except for a white cowboy hat, Paisley walks on stage for a sound check before the live Citi Concert performance is slated to begin at 8:30 a.m.
"Did you guys pull an all-nighter or what?" Paisley asks the cheering crowd, before thanking them for losing a night's sleep to attend the show. "I lost it for you as well," he says.
"We love you, Brad ... sign my baby!" shouts a man holding an infant.
"It's his first concert," Nick Nicastro explains of his 9-month-old son, Ryder. By his side, Allison Nicastro says that they've made the trip from New Jersey to see the show.
Standing nearby are a group of four women holding up signs. They've also traveled from New Jersey to watch Paisley perform and they are capital letters EXCITED.
"This is country music. Just crushing it. Just love Brad Paisley," says Donna Bonk when asked why she's standing in the middle of New York City at the crack of dawn.
“I walked down the aisle to ‘Perfect Storm.’”
Chelsea Ohlemiller, BRAD PAISLEY SUPERFAN
Her friends Ann Mohamadi and Megan Shook agree, chiming in with enthusiastic "yeahs" and adding, "We love him."
Paisley and his band tear into "So Many Summers," the latest single off his forthcoming album, "Son of the Mountains." They follow that with a run through his 2002 hit "I'm Gonna Miss Her (The Fishin' Song)."
A spattering of cowboy hats bob up and down in time to the music, while above them, the clouds above look increasingly threatening.
Paisley plays another few songs to warm up before the live performance then exits the stage amid a barrage of cheers.
Waiting patiently are Bridgid O'Brien and Laura Jorge who left Newport, Rhode Island, in the middle of the night to drive to New York. Jorge is wearing a Brad Paisley concert shirt and proudly shows off her matching baseball hat, which Paisley signed for her at a previous show.
"It looks like it's going to come down," says O'Brien when asked about the weather.
On stage, a TODAY producer reassures the crowd that even if it rains, the show will go on. If there's lightning, however, well, that's a different story.
Chelsea and Justin Ohlemiller have their fingers crossed that the weather will hold out, especially given that they hopped a last-minute flight from Indiana to be there.
"We have a broken past," Chelsea Ohlemiller explains. "So, when I first met Justin, I told him I wanted to be loved like a Brad Paisley song. Since then, it's just always been incorporated into our relationship.
"I walked down the aisle to 'Perfect Storm,'" she says.
Nearby a women overhears the conversation and interjects, "I think she needs to meet him!"
Others around her agree. Yes, meeting Brad Paisley would be the well-deserved outcome of having gotten married to one of his songs, let alone flying to New York at the last minute to see him perform.
Then the rain starts to fall. And it comes in sheets. Undeterred, fans don orange TODAY show ponchos and hunker down. At least until the first flash of lightning, which is soon followed by another. Then another.
Letters begin peeling off the painstakingly made signs and security briskly ushers fans off the plaza as the storm rages. Just like that, it's over. All that's left are a few waterlogged signs, crumpled on the ground.
If nothing more, at least fans got to see sound check, which Chelsea Ohlemiller says is better than nothing at all.
The TODAY plaza is mostly empty when the rain lets up. Then, almost miraculously at 8:30 a.m. on the dot, the sun comes out.
Against all odds, there will be a concert after all.
The rain-soaked stage is wiped off and, as if on cue, Brad Paisley and band come out and immediately launch into his song "Water."
The crowd trickles back in from wherever they’ve been riding out the storm, a bit smaller, perhaps, but no less enthusiastic. Soon, the plaza is full again, just in time for Paisley to perform a few more songs.
It's triumphant and everyone dances, right down to Al Roker, who grabs TODAY contributor Ally Love's hand to swing in time with the music, while Hoda Kotb and Savannah Guthrie do a line dance.
After Paisley finishes, he rewards his steadfast fans by taking selfies and shaking hands in the crowd.
Before taking his leave, he stops for a picture and a hug with Chelsea Ohlemiller, who looks both stunned by the unexpected turn of events.
"Oh my God. I'm just shaking, this is so surreal," Ohlemiller says crying. "I'm never going to forget this. I'm never going to forget it."