Thursday evening found the Charleston Coliseum & Convention Center awash in an amalgam of bluesy country, tossed with a side of southern rock and seasoned with just a dash of metal for flavor, as Chris Stapleton’s All-American Road Show graced the stage.
The Marcus King Band opened the night with a playful, sometimes jazzy, sometimes soulful musical set.
With a stockpile of original music, mostly new to the audience, King and his bandmates still managed to sound familiar.
Reminiscent of Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Creedence Clearwater Revival, King kept the early crowd engaged. He surprised and roused the audience with a few bars of Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” before ceding the stage to the fiery Margo Price.
With a glorious nasal twang — just slightly gentled by a velvet coated edge- and a lung capacity fit to blow down a house, Price was mighty.
Stomping barefoot, backed by a honky-tonk piano and an acoustic guitar, she was a little bit Dolly Parton, a little bit Pam Tillis and a little bit Janis Joplin.
She wowed the crowd with her energy and storytelling.
Particularly spectacular was her cover Dusty Springfield’s “Son of a Preacher Man.”
I’ll be searching it out for download. I suggest you do, too.
A little after 9 p.m. Chris Stapleton took the stage to a deafening roar.
The crowd was primed and ready for this unassuming giant, the new face of “classic” country. Veiled behind a big beard and an even bigger hat, Stapleton doesn’t offer the glammed up pretty boy face of auto-tuned modern country-rock. He doesn’t sing much about big trucks or summer crushes, instead he harkens back to the original bad boys, those middle-finger-waving, whiskey-swilling, pot-smoking fathers of Outlaw Country.
Stapleton can croon a love song better than the slickest of mainstream radio play. It is just that — if you are listening closely — he is as likely to be singing that ballad to a bottle of whiskey as he is to a woman. It was clear, his down and dirty, brutal brand of country is just what the audience was there to hear, and he did not disappoint.
But Stapleton didn’t give just a new version of the same old show.
He isn’t limited to a few chords and the occasional showy riff. As the night progressed, the stage lights took on a darker hue, as did the music. In almost two hours of stage time Stapleton took the crowd on a trip from classic country themes to a world of chewy, dark blues compositions.
It was quite the ride.
At the end of the night, he brought the evening full circle, ending with two of his biggest hits, “Broken Halos” and “Tennessee Whiskey” but if you weren’t careful you might just have been exposed to something a little different there in those middle creases of the show.
It takes a masterful musician to quietly take an audience on a ride like that. Stapleton is just that man.