Review: Chris Stapleton Keeps It Simple, Creates Magic on Summer Tour
Live music is generally pretty thrilling: Fans screaming, bright lights beaming, the artist giving it his all. Sometimes, though, concertgoers get really lucky and experience a moment that can only be described as ... magical. Incredible. Something they'll always remember.
On Thursday evening (July 21) in Canadaigua, N.Y., Chris Stapleton thrilled his assembled crowd, of course -- he's Chris Freakin' Stapleton; that's basically a given -- but just a few songs before the end of his show, he, his wife Morgane and his band created pure, incredible magic.
The song was "Fire Away," the second track on his debut solo album, Traveller, for which he released, earlier this year, a music video that we dare you to get through without crying. It's a powerful song -- "Your love might be my damnation / But I’ll cry to my grave / Fire away" -- made even more so by its sparse arrangement and Stapleton's killer voice, and to hear him sing it live is an experience well worth the ticket price.
But then, after finishing the song himself, Stapleton stepped back up to the microphone and asked the crowd to sing the chorus back to him, just once. And, with a few holding up their cellphones to light up the night, they did, from the front row to the very back of the lawn. And the result was ... magical. Incredible. Something they'll always remember.
Stapleton wasn't done there, though. He quickly launched into a few lines of "Freebird" (and, no, it wasn't because "that guy" in the audience kept yelling it), then segued into "The Devil Named Music," followed by his sung band introductions and "Tennessee Whiskey" -- and then ended the evening with an emotional punch of an encore: "Sometimes I Cry," preceded by an acoustic version of "Whiskey and You."
Frankly, though, all of Stapleton's nearly two-hour set was top notch: He gave those following him from his SteelDrivers days a treat by covering "Midnight Train to Memphis" and "Drinkin' Dark Whiskey;" turned Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers' "You Don't Know How It Feels" into a country-western shuffle; and offered up a new song, "Hard Living." Though his band is small -- there's just four people, including him, onstage -- and though he doesn't stray far from his microphone, the country star can whip a crowd into a frenzy just by playing a few notes. His live show is raw and spiritual, but simple; the focus is always on the music, the playing, his voice ... well, and occasionally his wife.
Morgane Stapleton has a fan club of her own -- plenty of the audience members seated near the front of the stage were trying to catch her eye throughout the evening -- and she just about upstaged her husband while singing their duet version of "You Are My Sunshine," earning a long, raucous round of applause (and rightfully so). Watching the two of them interact during the show -- nods and looks of approval here, a few quick words to each other there -- felt like being let in on a secret; plus, it's sweet to see two immensely talented people who love each other so much.
Opener Brandy Clark got Stapleton's Canandaigua crowd ready for a night full of some of modern country music's very best songwriting, performing tracks from her new album, Big Day in a Small Town, as well as a couple songs from her debut disc, 12 Stories, and covers of big hits she helped write. The crowd lucked out having both her and Stapleton -- two artists earning fame of their own after penning stand-out tunes for others -- on the same bill.
Stapleton's tour calendar remains full throughout the summer and fall: In addition to some headlining shows and festival dates, he will also be co-headlining a trek with Hank Williams Jr. in August. A complete list of upcoming dates is available on Stapleton's official website.
Watch Chris and Morgane Stapleton Sing "You Are My Sunshine"
Learn the Story of Chris Stapleton's "Nobody to Blame"