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Concert Reviews:
Chris Stapleton keeps it cozy at DTE
 

By Gary Graff
ggraff@digitalfirstmedia.com, @GraffonMusic on Twi

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INDEPENDENCE TOWNSHIP -- Looking out at a packed DTE Energy Music Theatre on Saturday night, Aug. 19, Chris Stapleton told the crowd that "You can't imagine how good it feels to have this many people show up for a show."

Rest assured the good feeling was mutual.

Though just two albums into his career as an artist, Stapleton -- who established his reputation as a hit songwriter for Kenny Chesney, George Strait, Darius Rucker and more -- is a bona fide country headliner. The 39-year-old Georgia native has a pair of No. 1 country albums as well as two Grammys, and enough other awards to keep his trophy case overstuffed.

And he's scored enough hits of his own that the 15,000 at DTE were singing along most of the night -- so enthusiastically that a clearly moved Stapleton even reprised the chorus of "Fire Away" just to bask in the experience.

But while it was an undeniably big night, the charm of Stapleton's concert on Saturday was that he and his roadhouse-ready three-piece band -- including wife Morgan Hayes on backing vocals and tambourine -- kept things small. Stapleton and company eschewed the usual visual pizzazz of a big headlining show in favor of a more intimate 20-song, nearly two-hour performance that ensured the music was the star of the night. Even the Thunderdome-style set behind and above the quartet seemed to shrink its onstage footprint, making the group look like it was performing inside some kind of post-modern honky tonk rather than on a big amphitheater stage.

The production suited Stapleton perfectly. A low-key performer by nature, he kept the focus on the playing and his songs about whiskey (a solo acoustic "Whiskey And You," a cover of David Allan Coe's "Tennessee Whiskey"), weed ("Might As Well Get Stoned," "Them Stems") and affairs of the heart ("Nobody To Blame," "Parachute,” the brand new “Untangle My Mind”). The range of his repertoire stretched from stone country to hard rock with plenty of soulful blues in between, and even his "hillbilly music" had a gritty, earthy flavor that defined most of the material.

When the black-clad, cowboy-hatted Stapleton did talk he was gracious and gently self-deprecating -- and even funny at times, especially as he sang stream-of-consciousness band member introductions during "Tennessee Whiskey." When he let his guitar do the talking, however, Stapleton was a force to be reckoned with, searing and shredding on songs such as "Death Row," "Second To Know" and extended versions of "The Devil Named Music," "Outlaw State Of Mind" and the show-closing "Sometimes I Cry."

Late in the night Stapleton cracked that "I'm havin' too much fun tonight. Sorry." But no apology was necessary; The feeling, again, was entirely mutual.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff

 



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