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Stapleton shows his traditional roots

Erie Insurance Arena, Erie, PA, August 15, 2019

Reviewed by Michael Rampa

Chris Stapleton's All-American Road show feels like a singular mission to rid the genre of the bro country scourge that has plagued it for years. He came out with a blazing one-two punch of "Second One To Know" and "Without Your Love" and packed a stadium sized onslaught into a 9,000-seat arena. He never once veered from his traditional roots, at one point teasing a version of Lynyryd Skynrd's "Freebird" to flex his Southern rock chops.

The first part of the 20-song set featured the hard rockers including "Minimum Wage" and "Parachute." As a lead guitarist, Stapleton was impressive on every song. He began the mid-point slowdown with "Millionaire." The raucous crowd seemed ready for some ballads. They proved it on the very next song when Stapleton had the band go silent, and the crowd fire up its lighters and cell phones to collectively sing the chorus to "Fire Away." He, of course, closed out with "Tennessee Whiskey." It is interesting that his career maker and cross format airplay hit is a David Allen Coe cover that Stapleton never formally released as a single.

Patrons who arrived for the main act only missed an impressive double opening bill. Greenville, S.C.'s Marcus King Band and Brent Cobb separately served up over an hour of scorching southern rock and country blues that was energetically and deservedly well received.

King has established himself as an electrifying performer, especially in the jam-rock world, where his slippery guitar style and soulful singing voice have made him a regular draw on the festival circuit, including Eric Clapton's "Crossroads." They played songs from their fourth album "Carolina Confessions." King spent time under the tutelage of Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks, and their influence is evident in his aggressive playing style. His songs range from the introspective" Where I'm Headed," where he sings of pursuing his dreams and the resulting separation from loved ones to the blues rock face melter, "Homesick."

Grammy nominee Cobb is as much a throwback as Stapleton and known for his bruising guitar. He featured the soulful "King of Alabama;" a funky tribute to a fallen friend.