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Saturday, August 19, 2017

Chris Stapleton's Blossom Performance Showed Real Country at Its Finest

Posted By on Sat, Aug 19, 2017 at 12:46 PM

click to enlarge PHOTO BY SCOTT SANDBERG
  • Photo by Scott Sandberg
He was mostly shadows and fingers up there on stage. At least that's what the packed-in audience could see of Chris Stapleton last night at Blossom. But it didn't matter that his face was obstructed by a sandy cowboy hat and a straggly-ass beard, you could still hear that voice and you could still see his fingers flying around his guitar — like guitar is the easiest thing to play, like he was born playing that instrument.

(Take a look at photos of last night's show right here).

And the instrumentation is important here, because so many bands these days, ones that even claim to be a two-piece or three-piece, seem to add to their ranks as soon as they get big and go on tour. Last night, Stapleton had a bassist, drummer and his wife Morgane on hand to play tambourine and sing harmony ... reminiscent of Johnny and June. And with only four bodies on stage, the whole place was somehow ignited with insane soulful Americana talent.

For most of the two-hour set, people did attempt to sing along with Stapleton's old-school country songs — the ones from 2015's Traveller and also this year's From a Room: Volume 1.

But let's breakdown one of his hits, "Tennessee Whiskey," right now. It begins simply enough, yet when he gets to the line, "You're as warm as a glass of brandy," that's where even Whitney Houston or the best of opera singers would need a minute.

He sings it like this:

"You're as waaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrammmm as a glass of brandy," running over seemingly every possible note on the "warm" like water. And these were the sorts of ostentatious vocal lines that caused the guy behind me to keep yelling out "fuck me up," which I can only assume he meant in a good way.

Some singers sound better or worse or at least different than their records. Not Stapleton. His wizened and chest-aching vocals howled to the moon last night just as righteously as they do on his albums.

Stapleton, thankfully, makes music for adults. He's not sidetracked by pickup trucks and red Solo cups, and playing to the teenage crowd. His music feels lived in, and it makes sense he was content being a Nashville songwriter for many years (read Billboard's oral history of making Traveller right here) before finally making his own record.

That's who was there last night, adults. And they rolled with all the punches Stapleton threw out. He played all the rousing hits and impeccable guitar solos, sure, but he also played a couple of the songs you'd be more apt to skip while listening in your car (that's when folks opted to hit up the beer line or the bathroom again).

Stapleton, who didn't talk much at all between tunes, carefully crafted a show that brought people together. He told the mostly standing crowd he was playing to both the hillbillies and the hippies. And with our country in such turmoil, he never got political — unless you count his short covering of Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Tuesday's Gone."

At the end of the mostly on point night, after coming back out for the encore, Stapleton claimed this was one of his favorite crowds in years (like he doesn't say that to everyone), but the audience took the compliment in stride. The finale included the painfully brutal "Either Way," and closed with "Sometimes I Cry."

And for that last one, the crowd lost their minds. Some played air guitar, some lifted their hands to the sky. Stapleton went off the beaten track of his recording. He hit higher notes, he added more runs, it was all entirely unfair. He made you believe you might start crying from the wonder of it all.

"Sometimes I cry / Cry / Sometimes I cry / When I can't do nothing else."

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