Chris Stapleton, Willie Nelson at All American Roadshow (8.21.21)
by: Preston Jones

Read entire review here.

This past week in North Texas, the biggest bang for your musical buck could be found Saturday night at Arlington’s Globe Life Field: Chris Stapleton’s All-American Roadshow. Before a scarcely masked audience of 40,000, a quartet of A-list country artists doled out roughly five hours’ worth of sonic riches. (Certainly, those filing into Globe Life Field got more for their money than the folks filling up AT&T Stadium next door, where the Dallas Cowboys stumbled through yet another preseason loss, this one to the Houston Texans.)

Saturday’s extravaganza was a bargain delayed in its delivery: Stapleton had initially scheduled his stop for November 2020, but the pandemic had other plans.

“How many of you bought this ticket two years ago?” Stapleton asked the room early in his set, to raucous cheers. “Well, here we are, finally.”

With his wife, Morgane Stapleton, providing her otherworldly vocal accompaniment — the pair’s acoustic rendition of “Maggie’s Song,” from his latest record, Starting Over, was gorgeous and wrenching — and Mickey Raphael joining throughout on harmonica, Stapleton and his bandmates plowed through bluesy, folky, soulful tracks.

There was no questioning the country bona fides of the evening’s penultimate act. Willie Nelson, arguably the only name on the bill whose reputation befits such a massive space, walked on stage to a standing ovation.

The 88-year-old Texas icon settled onto a stool, strummed the opening chords of “Whiskey River” on his well-worn guitar named Trigger, and the scent of marijuana seemed to arrive instantaneously. It felt, as much as anything can in these upside-down times, both unifying and liberating.

Apart from the stool, which Nelson perched upon throughout the hour-long set, there weren’t any other apparent concessions to aging, unless you count the number of songs on which his son Lukas Nelson took lead vocals. Seated alongside him, Lukas kept a watchful eye on his father all night, leaning in to harmonize or take the band through covers (Stevie Ray Vaughan’s “Texas Flood,” Kris Kristofferson’s “Why Me”).

harmonize or take the band through covers (Stevie Ray Vaughan’s “Texas Flood,” Kris Kristofferson’s “Why Me”).

Nelson, making his first local appearance in over two years and visibly coughing at several points, roused to life in spots; “Roll Me Up and Smoke When I Die” followed by “Still Not Dead” was a highlight, as was the unbearably poignant sight of father and son trading verses on Pearl Jam’s “Just Breathe.”

Regardless, it remains a joy to bask in Nelson’s presence and be reminded of the extraordinary durability of his classics (“On the Road Again,” “You Were Always on My Mind” and “Still is Still Moving to Me” were aired out Saturday). He’ll be back in our neck of the woods in November, playing the considerably smaller Billy Bob’s Texas.

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