Last night was a gorgeous one in Memphis. 70 degrees, light breeze, beautiful sunset; incredible night for an outside show. The last time I saw Stapleton was at the 2016 Nashville New Year Eve event on Broadway. That show had 150,000 in attendance. The crowd at BankPlus amphitheater in Southaven last night was sold out, yet smaller. The smaller crowd coupled with the perfect weather set the scene for Stapleton’s set.
Chris Stapleton has the “it” factor. You often hear people talk about a gene or personality trait performers have that allow them to effectively, consistently blow the minds of their audiences. This trait is very much present in Stapleton; he brought the same energy, musical perfection and character to last night’s show as he did for 150,000 on New Years Eve. That’s hard to do.
I have to compliment Stapleton and his tour creative director on the stage design. You can see in the photos above the back of the stage was lined with old film lights placed behind shapes that resembled guitar amps. The shapes were in a semi-circle to make the stage appear smaller and more intimate. Genius.
Stapleton’s style of music lends itself to these intimate environments. He managed to pack country, bluegrass, gospel, and a few musical Memphis name-drops into his set. Each individual in the audience appeared to feel Stapleton was performing a private show just for them. Seriously, this show could have been held around a bonfire and the atmosphere would have been almost identical. Again, very hard to create this type of atmosphere in a large amphitheater.
Though all of this was incredibly impressive, the most impressive thing to me was Stapleton's ability to KILL his set list order. There was never a moment when I thought “well, that was an abrupt pace change”. He used guitar licks and his powerful vocal range to effortless guide his band through pace changes. The crowd never noticed.
I’m excited to see Stapleton again. The city of Memphis is partial to him because of his duet with friendship with Memphian Justin Timberlake. JT gave Memphis a shout on stage before he and Stapleton performed Timberlake’s song “Drink You Away” on the Country Music Awards last year. When JT played the FedEx Forum in Memphis on his last tour, his comment about "Drink You Away" was “This is the most Tennessee song I’ve ever written.” I’m hoping for my sake the people at the Country Music Awards didn't have a once-in-a-lifetime experience because I would kill to see JT & Stapleton play that song live.