Chris Stapleton Thrills Nashville Crowd at Ascend Amphitheater
With a slew of awards and accolades at his feet following the release of his debut album Traveller, Chris Stapleton had little to prove during his Nashville shows over the weekend (Oct. 14 and 15) at Ascend Amphitheater. Yet the seasoned singer was obviously moved by the thousands who showed up in droves for two sold-out shows to revel in the Kentucky native’s abundant talent as an unparalleled songwriter, singer and musician.
Brent Cobb opened the second night of Stapleton’s Nashville concerts to an eager crowd who were already in place and ready to throw down by the concert's 8PM start time. “I’m a little bit overwhelmed tonight, thank you for showing up early,” admitted Cobb, as he launched into songs from his new CD, Shine on Rainy Day, which was just released days earlier. The cousin of lauded Stapleton producer Dave Cobb, he received cheers from the crowd as he ran through songs like “South of Atlanta,” the CD’s title track, and “Let the Rain Come Down.” He delivered a solid set to open the evening, finishing out with the tune, “Down Home,” from the Southern Family compilation project, produced by Cobb.
The crowd erupted into applause the moment Stapleton and his band took the stage to kick off his second Music City show with his hit “Nobody to Blame.” With the glow of the Titans Stadium lights in the distance shining down over the stage like a giant neon light in the world’s biggest honky-tonk, Stapleton addressed the packed house with a, “How you doin’ Nashville? I think we should take a drink ... let’s take us a drink!” And the party was on. From the minute he and the band launched into the first few bars of Waylon Jennings’ “Ain’t Livin’ Long Like This," cups were hoisted in the air, dances broke out on the grass and the crisp night air was filled with the kind of country Nashville made its bones on back when the Outlaws were living their legacies in full force.
By the breakdown at the end of the third song, “Outlaw State of Mind,” the bar had been set for the night and the musical gloves were off. Toasting once again with the crowd and asking where the whiskey drinkers were, he turned in a riveting rendition of “Drinkin’ Dark Whiskey,” which was equal parts church shoutout revival and sweaty blues club at 3AM. The CMA Male Vocalist of the Year has an uncanny ability to slide his voice around a song like a dot of mercury broken out of a thermometer, and the Chuck Berry-esque licks added to the number’s raucous, fun feel.
The pensive “Was It 26” brought the crowd to a hush as he nailed the ballad, then launched into the love song to wife Morgane, “More of You.” Introducing his nod to Haggard on “I Might As Well Get Stoned,” Stapleton recounted doing a show with Merle on July 3, 2015.
“I didn’t get to meet him, but he sent a joint to the bus — I still have it,” added the singer as the crowd screamed. The sheer power of Stapleton’s voice is enough to send shivers down your spine; his voice cut through the night at times like the lonesome scream of a wild feral cat or the wistful, haunting howl of a coyote on a mountaintop. In full shout he might possibly be able to stop a train right in its tracks, and the full moon overhead and the rebel yells that occasionally punctuated his songs had the Tennessee crowd howling along in pure, unadulterated joy.
Wife Morgane stepped directly into the spotlight (where she equally obviously belongs) for a gorgeous, yearning Appalachian-tinged rendition of “You Are My Sunshine,” which highlighted her clear, honey-dripped vocals perfectly. How Nashville labels let this one go and missed the boat on her as a solo act is a head-scratcher, but she and her husband were clearly made to sing with each other, and we’re all lucky they do.
Stapleton explained the inspiration during a desert trip at sunrise before launching into the title track of his award-winning Traveller album, which had the crowd singing along, then laid down a sparse, chilling, brilliant version of the gloves-off tune "Fire Away." “What a treat this is to get to play for you all tonight, what a dream come true,” he said before introducing his band members, including the legendary Jennings steel player Robbie Turner.
Closing out the night with his CMA Awards show-stopper "Tennessee Whiskey," Stapleton joked, “I probably ought to lay off the Tennessee Whiskey,” then returned for an encore that included the haunting “Whiskey and You.” The quiet-mannered artist thanked the crowd again for a momentous evening, recalling a time not that long ago when his audience was a bit smaller. “I spent years playing for six of y'all, so those six I thank you! I played at the Basement for a while for a $5 cover charge ... that was a good time. This is a great time. Thank you!"
Watch Chris Stapleton's Most Iconic Moments
See Pictures of Chris Stapleton + Brandy Clark Live