Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz
econd night. Same as the first. Well maybe not for Chris Stapleton.
Yes, the sturdy set list was the same - mainly originals and a few well-chosen covers, but this night may have even better than the first.
There was no overt reason except that Stapleton turned in an inspired evening of music. Maybe sounding and singing just a tad better, if that were possible.
Over the course of two hours, Stapleton showed his vocal and musical chops time and time again. He made that more than obvious from the get go with his taut guitar lines and then vocally on the opener, "Nobody to Blame." Following up with "Parachute, " Second to Know," "Millionaire" and "Hard Livin'" set an extremely high bar for the remainder. There was really no let up from Stapleton throughout when it came to quality in a well-put together set list.
Stapleton is an unvarnished singer and player. He let loose on both with screeching leads coddled out of his guitar, letting it rip while also jamming away at times. Stapleton was not about replicating what was on the first night, but, instead, kept it fresh and always invigorating. Same for the slow burners.
Put another way, Stapleton and his highly competent band never mailed it in. Drummer XX MIXON maintained a very steady and sturdy beat, providing the anchor. Stapleton put together a group that complemented each other as a unit.
Stapleton got personal on "Joy of My Life" when he looked directly at his back-up singer and wife, Morgane, who edged closer to him. She seemed to have more of a prominent role compared to night one when she was harder to hear.
Stapleton has a few well-chosen covers and his nearly two-minute long intro of "Free Bird" before setting into his own "The Devil Named Music" worked. He covered a song from his former band, The SteelDrivers, "Midnight Train to Memphis." But if expecting a bluegrass delivery, nope. This one rocked. So did the exquisite encore closer, "Outlaw State of Mind," which boiled over with guitar and made it clear where Stapleton was coming from.
Stapleton may never be the most charismatic of yappers, although did engage directly with a few fans, a bit at their expense. But when you have musical performance that is so satisfying, that is enough.
Morgan Wade provided good karma for Stapleton with her opening 45-minute stint also seemingly even better on night two. She has a twang to her delivery – some say she recalls Miranda Lambert (perhaps vocally, but Lambert is far more country) with her acoustic guitar often leading the way. Her backing trio adding some crunch, but seemingly less so. Even Miley Cyrus' "Bad Karma" sounded more like it fit with the reset of the set tonight.
It was hard to imagine that Wade and Stapleton could possibly be better on night two, but believe it.