Sturgill Simpson and ‘Country Squire’ counterpart, Tyler Childers invaded Lexington, Kentucky during a stop on their “A Good Look’n Tour” slinging their white-powder coated country to a sold out Rupp Arena. The arena seats more than 23,000 bodies, although the majority of the crowd made little use of their recently renovated seatbacks, as standing was the primary mode for such an adrenaline charged event like this. Lexington was just an early pit-stop while embarking on the rest of their North American stint which intends to make stops in key cities like Detroit, Boston, San Francisco and Nashville before coming back to Kentucky to perform at the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville to round out the 37-date run.
Tyler Childers -
Following a four-times sold out residency at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee in early February, Tyler Childers and his band of rag-tag-ruffians returned to Kentucky received with open arms to perform songs from his sophomore release, “Country Squire.” Raised in Kentucky myself, I know the love for honest-hearted folks like Childers runs deep, but the love of country music paired with ice cold beer runs even deeper, and the packed house and full glasses (despite the freezing snow) is a testament to that. Not a man for flashy performances, Childers timidly stepped on to the stage to face a roaring crowd. The stone faced storyteller began by singing his smash single, “All Your’n” with his hands stashed in coat pockets and ball cap brim pulled low, donning a relaxed aurora which radiated from one corner of the arena to the next. Members of the crowd quickly shuffled to their seats spilling/tipping drinks as they walked with their focus on the stage. The set contained songs spanning both studio albums, “Purgatory,” and “Country Squire” with little time left for banter between songs due to the regular roar of applause. Childers finally made time to address the crowd towards the end of his set, by softly saying “I love you guys'’during an instrument change, before ultimately removing his in-ear monitors, standing to admire the crowd as his bandmates quietly left the stage. In what felt like a one-on-one conversation with Lexington itself, he referenced his relationship with the city, name dropping Al’s Bar as the first venue he played in Lexington. He finished his speech with “It’s good to be here.” Once the band vacated the stage, the soulful songwriter stayed behind to perform one last song. He leaned over to pick up his acoustic guitar and returned to the microphone and began the chords for his emotionally charged track “Nose On The Grindstone.” The audience members still seated were raised from position in a trance-like state. While Tyler chugged through the deep narration of one individual hoping his son/offspring escapes the curse of downtrodden appalachia, not a soul in the room was left silent as the echoes of the crowd repeating the lyrics rang throughout the arena. Those that stood, stood in solidarity---myself included.
Sturgill Simpson -
Guests were to be surprised when Sturgill Simpson took the stage. Prior to Simpson’s release of “Sound & Fury,” his totem was revered for the niche he carved, known to despise his outlaw country descriptor, he set out to defy everyone, (including Nashvillian morale) to release something unique and tasteful. Known for his dedication to his craft, Sturgill Simpson surprised fans last September by co-developing and releasing an anime special simultaneously for Netflix to accompany the release of his tumultuous record, “Sound & Fury,” with it-shedding the title of country outlaw that he earned from previous releases, but once his vocals begin in the song “Remember To Breathe”, his distinct twang is unmistakable like the yore of ole. On his road to triumph, he brought cowboy cohort Tyler Childers to bare witness in sharing the vibrant sound of “Sound & Fury.” Earlier in the day, Simpson added to his long list of career milestones by receiving the honor of having a road renamed after him in his hometown of Versailles, KY-a milestone for his tenacity. Playing to a sold out Rupp Arena was an obvious well-deserved next step for him, explaining at one point during the night that he “cut his teeth '' and “learned to lead a band” in Lexington.
A faint red strobe light signaled the band’s near much anticipated entrance, the lights flashed and the band was suddenly in position. Simpson frantically bounced over to the mic exclaiming “I’ve been waiting my whole life for this shit-get the fuck up!” as the familiar sound of an open chord erupted from his guitar starting the fast-paced instrumental “Ronin” showcasing the band’s ability to stay tight while firing on all cylinders. The song to follow, “Remember To Breathe,” subject aside, proved ironic with Simpson allowing little time for the crowd to finish their drinks, let alone catch a breath throughout the duration of his performance. Playing an array of songs including past hits and tracks off ”Sound & Fury,” a fan of any slew of Simpson’s work would enjoy the vintage vibe of his current catalog or the fire-blazoned reimaginations of older songs. During supercharged performances of songs like “Sing Along” and “Mercury In Retrograde,” the fans were split between a dance party and rock extravaganza complete with flashing lights and Simpson’s amped guitar playing style. Being the primary guitarist for the band, Simpson was able to flex a little of his skill during guitar solos and difficult rhythms while still carrying sole vocal duties. We were treated to two hours of stellar rock-n-roll.
Both Sturgill Simpson and Tyler Childers are representing some of the best work Kentucky’s blue collar familiars have to offer, paving a road for upcoming artists to follow. You can catch them at one of the remaining tour dates below. In the meantime, lay the needle down, turn the dial to 11, and enjoy some incredible music.
By: Zane Brammell
A Good Lookin Tour
March 4 — Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania @ Peterson Events Center
March 6 — Charlotte, North Carolina @ Spectrum Center
March 7 — Duluth, Georgia @ Infinite Energy Center
March 10 — North Charleston, South Carolina @ North Charleston Coliseum
March 13 — Hampton, Virginia @ Hampton Coliseum
March 14 — Philadelphia, Pennsylvania @ The Met Philadelphia
March 15-16 — Washington, D.C. @ Anthem
March 18 — Toronto, Ontario, Canada @ Coca-Cola Coliseum
March 20 — Columbus, Ohio @ Nationwide Arena
March 21 — St. Louis, Missouri @ Chaifetz Arena
March 22 — Southaven, Mississippi @ Landers Center
March 27 — Dallas, Texas @ American Airlines Center
March 28 — Austin, Texas @ Frank Erwin Center
March 29 — Sugarland, Texas @Smart Financial Centre
April 1 — Independence, Missouri @ Silverstein Eye Centers Arena
April 3 — Chicago, Illinois @ United Center
April 4 — Minneapolis, Minnesota @ Armory
April 9 — Omaha, Nebraska @ Baxter Arena
April 10 — Madison, Wisconsin @ Alliant Energy Center
April 23 — Tulsa, Oklahoma @ BOK Center
April 25 — Denver, Colorado @ Pepsi Center
April 28 — Salt Lake City, Utah @ Maverik Center
April 29 — Missoula, Montana @ Adams Center
May 1 — Portland, Oregon @ Veterans Memorial Coliseum
May 2 — George, Washington @ Gorge Amphitheatre
May 5 — San Francisco, California @ Bill Graham Civic Auditorium
May 8 — Inglewood, California @ The Forum
May 15 — Boston, Massachusetts @ TD Garden
May 16 — New York City @ Madison Square Garden
May 22 — Nashville, Tennessee @ Bridgestone Arena
May 24 — Louisville, Kentucky @ KFC Yum! Center
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