Taking the long walk into the amphitheatre, I noticed a rainbow of colored hair, cowboy hats, high heels, dresses, and fringe worn by all gender identities. Oh, and one guy wearing a Metallica t-shirt. The Orville Peck’s Rodeo at Red Rocks’ was hosted by filmmaker John Waters. He described the audience as part gay, part hipster, and part country.
Appearing in a dark suit with a weird white stripe John Waters did a twenty minute hilarious obscure reference heavy stand up routine. He set the tone for the evening of country, soul, and a gay fringe mask wearing singer. Waters introduced the first act as a real outlaw and a descendant of pioneer legend Davy Crockett.
Charley Crockett and his band stormed the stage like they were on a mission. Dressed in a light striped suit with a country flair, Crockett opened with Run Horse Run (it was a rodeo after all). The tune even had a whip sound with a “giddy up” ending. Crockett’s life is fascinating. He grew up poor in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. After serving time in prison for drugs, Crocket survived open heart surgery at the age of thirty-four. The audience felt his pain when he sang Hard Times – “Take a look in my eyes/Tell me what you see/Besides the bright blinking lights/Stretched out in front of me/I wonder if you’ll notice/Would you even care/If I told you my life just isn’t fair.” Crockett showed off his dancing skills while not missing a beat strumming his guitar while the band played a country boogie. The next two nights Crockett headlined at Denver’s Globe Hall.
John Waters introduced the next artist Yola by yelling, “Big girls don’t cry, they wail!” Wearing a sparkly romper with purple hair, the Bristol, England singer made quite an impression. Yola started with Lonely The Night from her Grammy nominated debut album Walk Through Fire. The tune started softly and ended with a crescendo that echoed off the famous rocks of the amphitheatre. Yola showed off her remarkable range with the country song Ride Out In The Country transitioning to the soulful sexually charged Starlight. She covered Spanish Harlem (the Aretha Franklin version) and Goodbye Yellow Brick Road by Elton John. I saw her perform the same impressive version at the Dillion Amphitheatre a few years ago. The singer’s performance was even more amazing this time around. She closed with Stand for Myself the title track from her album that will be released on July 30th. Yola left the stage by instructing the crowd, “Follow me on Instragrm and buy my album. Help a bitch out.”
John Waters brought Orville Peck on to the stage by proclaiming him as “a cowboy Liberace in Versace.” Wearing his infamous fringe mask, Orville Peck took over the musical rodeo with his band in matching western attire. They launched into Summertime that sounded like a theme song from an old spaghetti western. Peck’s specific brand of country was spotlighted in Winds of Change – “Left my mind in the Salt Lake City/Met a lot of men who would call me pretty/Pack of reds, watch the days get colder/Don’t it make you cry, how we’re getting older?”
My favorite songs of the mask artist are his duets. Peck did not disappoint. He brought back Charley Crockett for Waylon Jenning’s Ain’t Living Long Like This. The diverse crowd’s smiles got bigger as the two danced and sang their way through the country classic.
Bria Salmena, the multi-instrumentalist from Peck’s band, stepped in for Canadian diva Shania Twain (who sings on the recorded version) for the duet Legends Never Die. Salmena exchanged guitar licks with Peck as the crowd sang along to the lyrics, “Well I been rode hard and put up wet/Ain’t nothing in this world that I can’t get/Yeah, don’t you worry ’bout making sure they won’t forget/No, it’s fine ’cause legends never die.”
Yola returned for the final duet of the night, Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers’ Islands in the Stream written by The Bee Gees. The timeless tune that crossed over musical genes in 1983 was the one of highlights of the night.
The set ended with guitarist Duncan Hay Jennings sitting on top of a piano as Orville Peck played Drive Me Crazy. It’s about a trucker contemplating love on the road. After finding the setlist, it was apparent that the band ran out of time before the mandatory noise curfew. The planned finale was Lady Gaga’s Born This Way.
See you at the next show. I’ll be the one in the fringe mask explaining the genius of John Waters.