REVIEW: Chris Stapleton, Wells Fargo Arena, 6.22.23

Chris Stapleton isn’t one for a lot of small talk. Never has been, never will. For Stapleton, the music does all the talking.

“I’m not gonna waste a whole lot of time with words out here tonight,” Stapleton told a sold-out Wells Fargo Arena crowd between songs Thursday night during the latest leg of his All-American Road Show Tour.

When you’re one of country music’s current most talked-about singer/songwriters, you don’t need fireworks, pyrotechnics, fancy runways or …. anything, really. Just the music, which he delivers in spades.

Backlit with the bank of comfortable red and orange lighting, Stapleton walked out to thunderous applause, plugged in and got his show on the road  with  “Nobody To Blame,” followed by “Parachute” and “Second One To Know.”

The staging was simple. Stapleton’s idea of extravagance was a bank of 25 clear, glowing light bulbs that stretched the width of the stage in front of him.

“Starting Over” smoothly transitioned to “Millionaire” and “Hard Livin,” from 2017’s multi-platinum album “From A Room: Volume Two.”

Stapleton cranked things up a notch with the 12-bar blues stylings of “Worry B Gone,” singing, “Everywhere I look trouble is all I see/Can’t listen to the radio and I hate TV,” which led into  a rousing rendition of “Honky Tonkin’ Is What I Do Best” alongside opener and country original Marty Stuart.

For those who like their Stapleton in less boisterous fashion, he had something for them, too, grabbing an acoustic guitar and going solo for “What Are You Listening To?” “Whiskey And You,” and “Maggie’s Song,” a tale of the death of the singer’s much-beloved dog.

Radio staple “You Should Probably Leave” brought a strong crowd response, as did “Midnight Train To Memphis,” in which Stapleton dug deep and got gritty, throwing a couple logs onto the fire of the night’s festivities, which apparently had simmered a bit, according to some crowd members.

When you are as popular as Stapleton is, you play to a wide swath of fans, from the hardcore “true country” disciples, to the heretical, “He’s as good as Kane Brown” type. The latter was easy to spot on this night — and unfortunately, hear. The incessant talking during the performance by crowd members was head scratching, especially during quieter portions in which Stapleton was truly baring his talents and soul. Not just a couple of people here and there, mind you. Dozens. The amount of concert-goers seen jib-jabbering, facing the other direction, and simply being anywhere except where they were — at a performance of one of the greatest voices of our lifetimes — was jaw-dropping. Yes, that many.

That aside, the show rolled on nicely throughout, with Stapleton even introducing a new song, an ode to truck drivers called “Crosswind.”  

“Traveler” and “Fire Away” set the stage nicely later in the show for Stapleton’s monster hits, “Broken Halos” and Tennessee Whiskey,” both dripping with his powerful, heartfelt vocal.  He closed the show with encore “Outlaw State of Mind.”

Openers Marty Stuart and his Fabulous Superlatives were every bit as entertaining with their tried and true  honky tonk groove. The legendary Stuart seemingly still has every drop left in his Telecaster tank, cranking out a fun set that included “You’re A Friend of Mine,” “Time Don’t Wait,” his signature surf-bleeding instrumentals, and a cover of  Travis Tritt’s “The Whiskey Ain’t Workin’.”

This, youngsters, is how it’s done. Pay attention next time.