If there is anyone who delivers a more soulful or mesmerizing introduction of their band in concert than Chris Stapleton, I have yet to hear them. This Kentucky-born troubadour’s introduction of his band members at his sold-out Humphreys show here last May was so good, in fact, it was a highlight of his consistently excellent performance.
Rather than quickly recite the names of his musicians, the Grammy Award-winning Stapleton devoted a blues-drenched four minutes to introduce them. Wrapped into an extended version of his song “Tennessee Whiskey” — whose melody strongly evokes Etta James’ 1968 classic, “I’d Rather Go Blind” — his nightly ode to his band features Stapleton tailoring the lyrics to literally sing their praises.
At Humphreys, the result was several minutes of aural bliss, as he combined the slow-burning vocal fervor of a gospel preacher and the grit of a Southern soul man. Stapleton then seamlessly segued into his concert-closing “Tennessee Whiskey.” I can almost still hear the roar of the crowd echoing.
With any luck, he will again include his memorable musical homage to his band when he performs here Thursday at Mattress Firm (formerly Sleep Train) Amphitheatre.
His only challenge will be to make his earthy, no-nonsense songs resonate as effectively in this nearly-20,000-capacity Chula Vista venue as they did at the 1,450-seat Humphreys.
In contrast with many acts who play at San Diego’s largest outdoor concert venue, Stapleton eschews pyrotechnics and razzle-dazzle production. His no-nonsense songs speak for themselves.
Chris Stapleton’s “All American Road Show,” with Brothers Osborne and Lucie Silvas
When: 7 p.m. Thursday (doors open at 5:30 p.m.)
Where: Mattress Firm Amphitheatre, 2050 Entertainment Circle, Chula Vista
Tickets: $30.75-$115 (plus service charges)
Or, as he recently told Rolling Stone: “The show isn’t about screens, and we don’t have any video content or lasers or things blowing up. I want people to come to our show to listen. I want the show to be the music.”
Thanks to his superior singing, songwriting and guitar-playing skills, Stapleton should have no problem making his music be the show. At his best, which is often, his impassioned, expertly crafted songs transcend country, rock, blues and soul.
His splendid new album. “From a Room, Volume 1,” features songs he wrote before his 2015 debut, “Voyager,” which earned him multiple Grammy and Country Music Association awards. It was also the best-selling country album of 2016.
The surging popularity of his spare, salt-of-the-earth music is reassuring, all the more so in an era when so much of what passes for country music is slick, formulaic pop with pseudo-country affectations.
Chris Stapleton is, very simply, the real deal. Long may he run.