Chris Stapleton apologized to the crowd “( that) it took seventeen thousand years to get here.” That was a slight exaggeration. Chris Stapleton’s All-American Road Show was cancelled twice by the covid lockdown, once by the Stanley Cup playoffs, and another time due to the long-bearded singer getting the virus. There were a few empty seats due to the shows being moved to the Fourth of July Weekend. But those that attended witnessed an amazing night of music.
Mike Campbell and The Dirty Knobs kicked things off. Campbell (the front man and guitarist) and the drummer Stan Lynch are former members of the legendary Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Making sure the audience knew who they were, the band opened with Running Down a Dream. Driving the point even further, they played a slow bluesy version of Tom Petty and the Hearthbreakers’ Refugee. I was surprised that Campbell’s voice is very similar to Tom Petty’s. I still heard people wondering who Campbell was after the songs were played. Capturing my sentiments, the band played their original F*ck That Guy. A father sitting by his children was visibly upset about the salty language. Pro tip – Don’t bring kids to a Country show if you want to shelter them from the f word, drinking, and/or bad behavior in general.
Country singer-songwriter Margo Price joined the band for the song State of Mind (she also sang on the recorded track). The musicians had huge smiles on their face showing their mutual respect. To close out the set, Stan Lynch (who joined the band only a few months ago) stepped away from his drum kit to sing John Sebastian’s Stories We Will Tell with Campbell. The song appeared on the 1985 Tom Petty and the Heartbreaker’s album Pack Up the Plantation. The emotion of those two musicians playing together was a beautiful tribute to the music that has been such a big part of so many people’s lives.
Margo Price had an eventful day in Denver before taking the stage. According to Price’s Twitter account, she got accosted by a homeless man on the 16th Street Mall. Her bass player Kevin Black saved her from being harmed. Side note – The day before I witnessed an interaction between a naked man and a policeman near the same location. She also bought a sparkly jumpsuit from Gold Mine Vintage a local boutique that she wore that night. Her band was firing on all cylinders as they performed some of her most powerful songs including Four Years of Chances and Hey Child. Jeremy Ivey (Price’s husband) almost stole the show with his impressive harmonica playing. But since Ivey wasn’t wearing a sparkling jumpsuit with stilettos, Price’s powerful stage presence remained the focus.
When Price announced she had a few more songs, a woman seating behind us yelled in disgust, “A few more? I’m going upstairs.” She missed out. Mike Campbell joined Price to play Wicked Mind from Mike Campbell & The Dirty Knobs latest album External Combustion – “I don’t think you understand//What kind of man I really am/I’m a sinner with a rebel soul/Got a wicked mind with a heart of gold. Price ended her set with Hurtin’ On A Bottle as she handed out roses to the audience to the crowd that was obviously putting a hurtin’ on a bottle themselves.
When the lights dimmed, The Band’s Cripple Creek played on the house PA. It was fitting because Stapleton’s new album has a major The Band influence. Stapleton and his band The Honchos started with Nobody to Blame (making me wonder if he was making a statement about the how many times the show was delayed). His wife Morgane Stapleton sings backup with the band. Since many of Stapleton’s songs are about her, there is a special dynamic between the couple that comes across in the music especially during the songs Broken Halos and Starting Over.
There was an acoustic set that left Stapleton on stage with just his six-string and his soulful voice. He is still in awe of the crowds coming to see him. That’s when he sang What are You Listening To? inspired by performing numerous times “to a room full of no one.” Stapleton laughed and said it shot way up to number forty-six on the Billboard charts. He concluded his solo portion with Traveler and Whiskey and You.
Stapleton brought Mike Campbell to the stage by declaring that Campbell is his favorite guitar player from his favorite band. That’s when they launched into a Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers deep-cut I Should Have Know It showcasing Campbell and Stapleton’s impressive guitar chops. Next, Margo Price joined the musicians to perform Arkansas from Stapleton’s latest album Starting Over (Heartbreakers Mike Campbell and keyboardist Benmont Tench are featured on the recorded track).
Stapleton played a remarkable twenty-four songs. The supporting artists incorporated themselves seamlessly into each other’s sets. Just like Stapleton, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers are one of my favorite bands. It’s easy to see why Stapleton has become a large number of peoples favorite as well.
See you at the next show. I’ll be the one telling the guy behind me that Mike Campbell also wrote the music for Don Henley’s Boys of Summer.