When we arrived, security told us John Paul White’s show was seated. I have never been to an event that wasn’t standing room only at the Bluebird Theater including John Paul White’s show in 2017 (Read about that performance by clicking here). The venue’s own website states, “The Bluebird is a general admission building so come early to stake your floor space or lean up against your favorite bar or wall.” We were confused to find an abundance of folding chairs as we entered the venue. When the music started, about a dozen people rushed the stage. They positioned themselves right in front of the fans that waited hours in line to get a good seat (or so they thought). Nobody working at the venue made them move. It was unfair. But as soon as we heard the amazing tenor of John Paul White, the injustice of it all just disappeared.
The majority of the night’s songs were from White’s new album The Hurting Kind (he sang all but one of the album’s tracks). The material is influenced by the early 1960’s classic country music of Nashville. He even collaborated on a few tracks with legendary songwriters from that era. Eighty-one- year-old Bill Anderson, who has written over thirty top ten country songs, co-wrote the first tune of the set entitled I Wish I Could Write You a Song. During the ballad John Paul White delivered a haunting tune about the strife of being a songwriter. He introduced This Isn’t Gonna End Well by giving co-writing credit to Bobby Braddock known for composing Tammy Wynette’s D-I-V-O-R-C-E, George Jones’ He Stopped Loving Her Today, and Toby Keith’s I Wanna Talk About Me. White remarked that Keith’s song revealed that Braddock wasn’t perfect.
The old-school country tune Yesterday’s Love felt like White was singing a classic country standard. His fiddle player did an excellent job capturing Third Man Records own Lillie Mae’s playing from The Hurting Kind album. The chairs must have been the only thing stoping the crowd from waltzing around the theater. The album’s title track about an abusive relationship from the female perspective was powerful and silenced the crowd when he sang, “Oh, what a wicked joke/That’s getting played on me/I won your willing heart/And all its cruelty.”
Denver’s mile high elevation resulted in White’s 1957 Martin acoustic guitar consistently going out of tune. He even proposed a drinking game for the audience by stating, “Take a shot every time I have to tune it.” When the audience started chanting for White to participate in his proposed alcohol consumption competition, he laughed it off saying I’d be out after one.
Near the end of his performance, White asked the audience to get out of their seats and gather around the stage. He stepped away from his microphone to sing Hate the Way You Love Me without any amplification. It was so powerful I couldn’t get out of my seat.
Hays Ragsdale the lead singer from the opening band The Prescriptions was having sinus issues triggered by Colorado’s summer weather. For some quick relief, someone gave him elderberry extract before the show. It didn’t help, but he got to say the word elderberry in front of a crowd (making it worth it). The band made such a great impression with their alt-country melodies that a man in the back of the audience started to yell after each song. At one point, the band asked him to join the tour as their hype man. But it got confusing when nobody could tell if it was just obnoxious behavior or real praise for the band’s music. The tune Hollywood Gold spotlighted Ragsdale’s excellent voice and harmonica playing. It almost made me want to yell. But I didn’t want be like that guy in the back. Later John Paul White praised their musicianship by stating, “There’s a reason I signed them to my label. “
See you at the next show. I’ll be the one at the seated show not quite yelling from the back.