Chris Stapleton amazed fans at the Xcel

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This year has been a true gift in the shows I’ve seen and some of the distances I have gone to make it to shows. The first time I saw Stapleton this year was in Duluth. I drove straight from my day job to AMSOIL to make showtime. It was well worth it and having the chance to see Margo Price and Stapleton was a treat. So when Stapleton announced that he was returning to St. Paul I had no choice but to jump at the chance to enjoy the show as a fan.

First on the night was a man I’d wish I had made the show for in Duluth, Brent Cobb. If I could pick a few artists that make me smell a country roads dirty, a field of wheat, and coffee at the break of light as I am driving through the rural Midwest. Brent is absolutely on the list. Songs like Country Bound and Diggin Holes became some of my favorites immediately and I’m still listening to them as I write this. You won’t get the southern dixie sound of Margo or the rough guitar sounds of Stapleton here, but Brent has a cool and collected storytellers way about him which is a perfect way to open things up tonight. And lead into a singer who’s grown on me ever since I saw her in August.

Margo Price, though I don’t know her personally, is all at once the southern belle I imagine saying darlin and offering me a place at the family table.  As she is the type who’d tell you take that next shot of tequila or else. Which is just fine with me. Margo and her band have a sound that is hard to deny has amazing talent. Whether it’s rocking tunes led by harmonica, gritty guitar riffs, or Margo’s story teller style of songwriting I know I will see her anytime I can.

The set though largely the same as their Duluth stop featured a couple twists. One of which to the crowds excitement, a Tom Petty cover of Mary Jane’s Last Dance. A solid choice fitting right into Margo’s vocal range and the crowd sing along completing the moment. There was definitely something missing while I spent the first part of Margo’s Duluth show behind a lens. I’m glad to have made up for it. Favorites from the set are no shock for many Margo fans. Tom Petty cover a given, I Put A Hurtin on the Bottle, and Weekender.

Before the lights were even fixed to the stage the crowd rose and cheered as the silhouette of Stapleton with his iconic beard and hat moved across stage. As the band prepared the smells of cheap beer, smoke, and diesel rose as the bowl at Xcel filled. You may take that as a negative but for me the best shows stimulate every sense. And in this case things fit perfectly. No body odor issues to speak of this time phew.

The setlist, largely the same as Stapleton Duluth stop, kicked off with a couple crowd favorites including Broken Halos. I wish I’d have had some of the sing songs recorded to do them justice. But hearing nearly 20 thousand people sing to Broken Halos as well as Whiskey and You was absolutely amazing.

One thing I did notice changed from Duluth show is Morgane, Chris’s wife, was not present. Not sure on the back story there so maybe someone reading knows what I couldn’t deduce. But she adds a great element to some of the harmonizing in songs like Whiskey and You so she was certainly missed.

Among the starter songs for the night Stapleton added a tribute to the late Tom Petty, Mary Jane’s Last Dance. Without any direction the crowd immediately broke out every means of lighting they could and sang along through the entirety of the song. Two sing alongs already and we’re only four songs in, who’d have thought.

Whiskey and You came midway through the show when Stapleton took the stage solo for an acoustic moment. And if you haven’t heard him live you know whether Stapleton is alone or with his band, the man has pipes. So it made no difference when the crowd joined in to sing the chorus “that’s just the difference between whiskey and you… ones a devil, one keeps driving me insane. At times I wonder if they ain’t both the same”

Next came my favorite song, Parachute. Funny thing about this song for those like myself. The opening lyrics are actually…

You only need a roof when it’s rainin

You only need a fire when it’s cold

You only need a drink when the whiskey

Is the only thing you have left to hold

I won’t explain what I thought the words were but it’s irrelevant anyway, because this song live takes new life. Perhaps my favorite words, and the crowd’s, were “falling feels like flying till you hit the ground”

Stapleton rocked through a few more songs and all the she every fan near me yelled for Tennessee Whiskey it seemed. It’s a given that bigger hits will be placed strategically in a set like this but it was hard not to chuckle because many of those yelling were a hard yards away, Stapleton isn’t hearing it sorry folks. But he did appease all the shouts eventually. And without much surprise the crowd joined in for the entirety of Tennessee Whiskey. Hard not to blame them, it’s a damn good song. I won’t repeat the history but it’s an intriguing song on many levels and its history is fascinating. Well worth reading up in, spoiler, it’s not really David Allen Coe’s song.

All and all I gotta say I never understood people seeing the same bands numerous times live. I always said why would you spend all that money for the same shows blah blah. Consider me a converted skeptic. Though I may have the gift of seeing shows complementary as a reviewer I will gladly pay to see him the next opportunity I have. 

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