BY MELISSA RUGGIERI/AJC Music Scene
(This post was filed at May 6, 2017)
So much has changed for Chris Stapleton in the two years since the arrival of his stunning breakthrough, “Traveller,” yet so much has remained the same.
These days, the stages and crowds are bigger – evidenced by his two sold-out shows at Verizon Amphitheatre – and fans who spent the past 24 months telling friends, “You’ve gotta check out this Stapleton guy,” no longer have to convince anyone of his appeal.
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But Stapleton and wife, fellow singer-songwriter Morgane, are still the same earthy couple whose shared love of music is evident when they gaze at each other onstage, a talented pair fortunate enough to experience this rocket ride together.
At the first of his weekend shows in Alpharetta Friday night – a raw, blustery one that prompted many in the crowd to cocoon inside ponchos and blankets – Stapleton celebrated his new album, “From a Room: Vol. 1” (released Friday, two years to the day that “Traveller” landed) by performing more than half of its songs.
But he also didn’t shirk his past.
Shortly after 9 p.m., an arch lighted over the stage and The Band’s “Up on Cripple Creek” blared through the venue. The stage glowed amber as Stapleton, Morgane and three band members cranked out the opening notes of “Might As Well Get Stoned” (which some in the crowd took literally), while fans sang along enthusiastically to the swinging chorus of “Nobody to Blame.”
Stapleton, still a grizzly bear of a guy, also unwrapped “Midnight Train to Memphis” from the 2008 debut of his former band, The SteelDrivers, and used his stinging guitar to steer the song.
“It’s cold and wet and y’all still came to party – thank you,” he said, with a hint of the humbleness that colors his personality.
Stapleton, whose 2016 Atlanta appearances were at The Tabernacle and after a Braves game at Turner Field, displayed his formidable abilities as a singer and guitarist throughout the nearly two-hour show.
His voice bent with the twang of “Outlaw State of Mind” one moment, then soared in a gravelly yowl the next on the new “Death Row,” a song that sounds like dread.
In between the soulful “When the Stars Come Out” and another newbie, “Them Stems,” he and Morgane briefly stopped the concert so security could tend to an issue in the mass of fans gathered in the pit at the front of the stage.
A highlight of the night arrived when Stapleton was left on stage alone to sing the quintessential country ballad, “Whiskey and You.” Thanks to Stapleton’s brawny voice, the song’s somber beauty could be heard over the yapping of fans who apparently figured a quiet song was an opportunity to loudly converse.
Stapleton’s music is steeped in soul and Southern rock, a combination that makes songs such as “Parachute,” which exploded with a healthy Allman Brothers undercurrent, and his cover of Charlie Daniels’ 1989 tune, “Was It 26,” potent and organic.
While Morgane’s lovely harmonizing wasn’t prominent until the (new) “Either Way,” she later captivated the crowd with her vocals on a bluesy read of “You Are My Sunshine,” a sorrowful song masquerading as a children’s ditty. But coated with Morgane’s pure voice, the infrequently-heard lyrics of the third verse, “but if you leave me and love another, you'll regret it all some day,” reverberated with sadness.
Stapleton stocked the final chunk of his show with more new material, as well “Traveller” favorites “Fire Away” and the roaring title track, demonstrating both his versatility and commitment to authentic and unpretentious country.
His performance capped a meaty night of music that began at 7 p.m. sharp with British singer Lucie Silvas and continued with Maryland’s the Brothers Osborne, who romped through a 45-minute set that included the back porch strummer “21 Summer,” the boot stomping “Stay a Little Longer” and a mandolin-inflected version of Bruce Springsteen’s “Atlantic City.”
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