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Simpson satisfies, perplexes

Petersen Events Center, Pittsburgh, PA, March 6, 2020

Reviewed by Michael Rampa

The 6,000 fans leaving Sturgill Simpson's largest show ever in Pittsburgh seemed both satisfied and perplexed at the same time.

Simpson had been playing the new record "Sound and Fury" front to back most of the time, but after he rolled out clad in black with the band in red suits and opened with the rocking "Best Clockmaker On Mars" from the new record, he said, "We decided to switch it up tonight, make it a little looser for you."

The following two hours felt more muddled than loose. He daringly didn't play any new stuff until after the midpoint when fans are generally less enthusiastic about hearing such material. He crammed a quick-mini block of his latest into the 20-song set.

Logistics aside, Simpson proved he has the guitar skills to keep up with almost anyone. He has been disgruntled with the industry on both the recording and touring fronts and at odds with his label trying to make him the new face of alt.-country.

Simpson, who started out his career in country, leaned mostly toward bruising hard rock and even dipped into psychedelia on the one-two punch of "Ronin" and "Remember To Breathe." The band flexed its muscle all night with drummer Miles Miller making heavy use of the toms for most of his fills and keyboardist Bobby Emmet sounding like Rick Wakeman using heavy ethereal sustain to provide a spooky feel sometimes.

There was no confusion as to where opener Tyler Childers fell on the musical spectrum. The Kentucky native played an unabashedly 75-minute crowd pleasing country set and seemed to be the preferred choice of of the stereotypical country fan clad in flannel shirts with a beer in hand especially the large West Virginia contingent in attendance. He is more of a vocalist and not an energetic performer, but the band took care of the animation by ratcheting up the volume and energy on successive songs, especially on favorites from "Purgatory;" his breakthrough 2017 album that Simpson co-produced such as "I Swear (To God)," "Feathered Indians" and "Whitehouse Road."



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