Concert review

Chris Stapleton at Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo


Y’all, this dude can saaaang.

Before Friday night, I would not have described myself as a huge Chris Stapleton fan. In fact, I probably only know of him because there is a certain 13-year-old young man in my life who enjoys stealing my cell phone and playing “Tennessee Whiskey” on repeat. It’s a great song, originally recorded by David Allan Coe and later George Jones, but definitely made famous to my generation by Stapleton.

The 39-year-old Stapleton grew up in Kentucky and was his high school valedictorian. He eventually went on to Vanderbilt University but didn’t finish a degree. He married a musician and has risen to fame with five Grammy Awards and seven Country Music Association Awards. He’s been the musical guest on “Saturday Night Live” and is credited with bringing back a type of country music that Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson popularized back in the day. He has a long beard, he’s kind of sweaty and he wears all black with a cowboy hat.

At Friday night’s show, held after a calf scramble, some buckin’ broncos and my personal favorite – mutton bustin’ – Stapleton took the stage and played fan favorites “Them Stems” and “Nobody to Blame.” He dedicated the award-winning “Broken Halos” to victims of Hurricane Harvey and closed the show with “Tennessee Whiskey.”

I’ve been to a lot of concerts, and this was one of the best. Stapleton doesn’t do a lot of dancing and choreography, but he doesn’t have to – and would likely look pretty ridiculous if he did. He is so talented, and so fun to watch. Even if you don’t know all the lyrics, you find yourself tapping your foot and humming along.

Did I mention he absolutely shreds on the guitar? So there’s that too.

Now I’m sure that Garth Brooks was amazing and flew in through the ceiling riding a bull and other such theatrics. Sometimes it’s cool to see those kind of shows – spectacles the likes of Cirque de Soleil. Sometimes, though, you just want to hear some good music with your friends. That’s where Stapleton delivers.

Country music has become such a weird mix of rock and pop and commercialized nonsense. There are awful bands like Florida Georgia Line that feature frat-boy tattooed singers who wear vests with no shirts and sing about dancing on a tailgate with a girl in cutoff jean shorts. My friends, that is not music.

The Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo put together an awesome bill of performers this year, including “real” country musicians Brad Paisley, Keith Urban and of course, Chris Stapleton. While it’s not exactly easy to get in and out of NRG Stadium, it’s well worth it, and I’ll definitely be going back next year.

Chris Stapleton did it right.

I went in thinking, “Eh, OK, I’ll go because my super-amazing boss was able to get me a press badge,” and came out ready to buy the album and the T-shirt. This is country music as it should be – gritty, meaningful and relatable.


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