Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz
t's been quite a few days for Morgan Wallen. He shot to the top of sales charts with his ultra generous "Dangerous the Double Album." And now he was playing a livestream show from The Ryman – headlining it for the first time.
Wallen kicked it off playing solo keyboards on the lead-off song from "Dangerous the Double Album," the pensive "Sand in My Boots," one of the best songs on his sophomore release with his slightly gritty voice intact.
And he stayed within his Southern roots, something that would happen quitea lot during the 75-minute show" with his band in tow and tending to rock out instead of anything country (despite the southern twang during a bridge). It also provided a direct link to the Florida Georgia Line vibe.
This was Wallen's first show in 10 months and his first time ever headlining the Ryman. "We're going to play all new stuff tonight, so if you came to hear old stuff, you're in the wrong place," Wallen said a few songs in.
Later, Wallen would tell the tiny crowd of 200 people (there were limits in placed due to Covid), "My first album got kind of rushed out a little bit, but this one I got to be home," he said. "I got to be more a part of. It's like my baby. I feel closer to it."
Despite the album being all of five days old, this was not a mere recitation of "Dangerous." Wallen wasn't trying to replicate himself vocally, such as on the title track. It may not necessarily have been perfect (he was a bit pitchy here and there), but that's part of the beauty of the real deal.
One thing is clear is that Wallen, the pride of Sneedville, Tenn., fully embraces the southern reference points – drinking ("beer don't start nothing but the party" he sang on "Beer Don't," "Me on Whiskey" and "865") trucks, Daisy Dukes, country girls, fishing and more. The themes resurfaced again and again.
Wallen also has a penchant for radio friendly material. He got a bit swampy on "Country A$$ Shit," a song pretty much geared as a concert singalong.
And he pretty combined it all on the uptempo "Red Necks, Red Letters, Red Dirt."
But Wallen seemed to acquit himself the best on the slower songs where he left behind the bro country. "Wasted on You," which he said was one of his favorite songs since it came from a real place, was evidence on that. With his tough sounding vocals and intensity, one suspects he lived the lyrics in the break-up song.
The same was true for "Silverado for Sale" with Wallen on acoustic guitar and his vocals carrying the song about selling his truck and the good memories that he had with it.
The easy going "7 Summers" came off like a summer song that went down pretty easily. Same with "Somebody's Problem," which had a breezy singalong quality.
The best of the bunch may well have been his take on Jason Isbell's confessional "Cover Me," which Wallen first released as a YouTube cover. Performed as the encore, the song was rightfully stripped down with mainly acoustic guitar.
Tonight was a record release type of show, and give Wallen credit for having the courage to forego previous hits in favor of only new material. Of course, with a regular tour, past hits will be on the list no doubt. And it's not like Wallen trotted out a well-tested road machine either. That's not a knock on Wallen or his band. Time will heal all.
"I can't wait until we get tot do this again," said an obviously satisfied Wallen. Chances are there will be a lot more people in the crowd with a set if his earnestly delivered, relatable, familiar songs tonight were any indication
Sand in My Boots
Wasted on You
Silverado for Sale
Rednecks, Red Letters, Red Dirt
Blame It On Me
Country A$$ Shit
Me on Whiskey
More Than Surprised Than Me
More Than My Hometown