hris Stapleton stated from the outset that he wouldn't be talking much, in order to play more music. And he stuck to his word (or few words, as was the case this evening). That was just fine because Stapleton is not a big talker or storyteller. No matter, as he's a wonderfully soulful singer, skilled guitarist and talented songwriter. Thus, he played to these strengths for an artistically entertaining show.
Highlights came early with the love song, "Starting Over," which he sang to (and with) his wife Morgane Stapleton, while the audience sang along. Country headliners are known to bring their openers back on stage with them, and Stapleton held to this tradition during his set. Playing mandolin while Dwight Yoakam strummed a guitar, these two Kentucky natives sang the quietly moving "Miner's Prayer," an early Yoakam recording. Later, Mike Campbell added powerful electric guitar to the relatively obscure Heartbreakers song "I Should Have Known It" and then stuck around for the Stapleton hard rocker, "Arkansas."
Stapleton consistently sang well, whether he was folky with "Traveller," or pouring himself into the soul ballad "Cold." He also played plenty of electric guitar solos throughout the night, which he makes look easy. While he's a top tier writer, some of his best-known songs are covers. These include "Millionaire" (Kevin Welch), "Worry B Gone" (Guy Clark) and, of course, "Tennessee Whiskey" (David Allan Coe).
The audience sang along loud and often tonight and knew all the words to all his many hits. He didn't need to shake his ass or scoot across the stage to keep the audience's attention. His songs, singing and guitar playing provided more than enough attentiveness and satisfying entertainment.
In contrast, Yoakam – who preceded Stapleton – shakes his backside and dances around the stage—a lot. His band even wore sparkly jackets, which further played up the showbiz angle. Then again, Yoakam can also back up the glitz with strong country music. Only given an hour to work with, Yoakam made the best of it. He sang a lot of covers, but these were some of the best of the best. He performed songs associated with The Carter Family, Elvis, Buck Owens and even the Eagles. His own songs are also fantastic, especially "Ain't That Lonely Yet" and "A Thousand Miles From Nowhere." He left us wanting more, for sure.
Mike Campbell's Dirty Knobs were given less than a half-hour's stage time, but still found room for a couple Heartbreakers songs, include his slowed down rearrangement of "Refugee." He also played his new band's "Wicked Mind" and "Dirty Job," proving his post-Heartbreakers group has a great future.
Stapleton chooses his touring partners well, which made for a triple play of fantastic acts.