Stapleton delivered a powerful performance in NYC, leaving no question as to why he's won practically every country music award over the past year.
On July 23rd thousands of New Yorkers descended on the historic Forest Hills Stadium in Queens to witness a country legend in the making: Chris Stapleton.
There’s nothing flashy about a Stapleton concert. No pyro. Minimal lighting. No choreographed dance routines. His show is pure and genuine. Just four musicians grouped together on the stage, with Stapleton’s wife Morgane by his side providing soothing vocals throughout. Your focus is always on the music, and that centers around his one of a kind voice. A powerful combination of southern rock, blues and soul, delivered with a gravelly undertone that shifts from a gentle embrace to booming knock-you-off-your-feet moments.
There was no need for seats in the stadium, as the audience was standing from the moment Stapleton walked on stage. The 38 year-old Kentucky-native kicked off with his hit single Nobody to Blame, which received thunderous applause and hollers from the crowd.
Stapleton showed us he’s not without a sense of humor. Leading into Midnight Train to Memphis he said, “This song’s for all the prisoners in the audience, or for those of you who will wind up in jail later tonight.”
Midway through the set Morgane went backstage for a refill. At the end of the song she walked back on stage and Chris announced, “She came back,” to which Morgane replied, “I almost always do.” That got a big laugh from Chris and the crowd. “Almost always.”
Morgane’s soaring voice got the spotlight on a chill-bump-inducing version of You Are My Sunshine. That song is featured on the Dave Cobb produced album Southern Family (Cobb also produced Stapleton’s Traveller). At the end the crowd started into a chant of “USA, USA” to which Chris said, “You damn right.”
As if we hadn’t gone through enough of an emotional journey, Stapleton proceeded to melt everyone’s faces off with Fire Away. Towards the end of the song he stepped back from the mic and the entire stadium filled in without missing a beat. An incredibly powerful moment.
Opening the show was Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Brandy Clark. Clark has a big library of songs to pick from and the Forest Hills audience got a nice sampling. She performed tracks from her last two albums, Big Day In A Small Town and 12 Stories, as well as some of her bigger hits as a songwriter (Miranda Lambert’s Mama’s Broken Heart and The Band Perry’s Better Dig Two).
After the show I caught up with some folks to get their thoughts on Stapleton’s performance.
Jaime Miller, a self-described “Alabama gal living in a Manhattan world,” is always eager to grab any chance she can for a taste of home. Miller said: “Having grown up on the Muscle Shoals sound, I am a huge fan of Chris Stapleton. There is just something about that soulful, rock sound that you don’t find in mainstream country music anymore. You could easily find me dancing to Allman Brothers, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Aretha Franklin, or Janis Joplin, and Stapleton has revived that classic sound. His authenticity is refreshing, and his music rivals legendary artists across all genres. I managed to snag a front row view at the show, and Stapleton did not disappoint. His raw talent and gritty sound paired perfectly with the simple, intimate stage setting. Adding a personal touch to the show, his wife, Morgane, joined him on stage for several songs and warmed my heart and his. The highlight of my night was when Stapleton covered two of this Bama belle’s down-home favorites including Skynard’s Freebird, and a hauntingly beautiful rendition of You Are My Sunshine. If any of the New Yorkers in the crowd weren’t already fans, they certainly must be now.”
It was Jacque Smith’s first time seeing Stapleton and she was “blown away.” Smith said: “I knew he had a great voice and was an amazing guitarist, but seeing him live is just an experience in itself. I bought his record after his performance with Justin Timberlake on one of the Country awards show because it was just so damn good. It’s hard to pick just one song of his that is my favorite, but when my fiancée turned to me during the concert when Chris played Tennessee Whiskey and said I think we just found our first dance song for our wedding; that was pretty awesome since he’s not a big country fan and truly enjoyed the show as well. The concert as a whole was just an awesome experience, sitting outside seeing the big buildings poking out over the stadium walls and remembering that here we are in Forest Hills, Queens getting to enjoy great country music. The concert had a fun, chill vibe and you can tell everyone who was there were big fans of Stapleton.”
Check out our exclusive pics from the concert here:
Stream Traveller on Spotify here: