Thursday, August 28, 2014
Brighton Music Hall, Boston, MA
*My dear friend and comrade-in-music, the uber-talented Ken Templeton, is obsessed with Sturgill Simpson. He’s posted about Sturgill on Facebook so many times that I finally sat down and listened to the Kentucky native’s NPR Tiny Desk Concert myself to see what the buzz is about. Ken recently moved to Massachusetts and got the chance to see Sturgill live a couple of weeks back. Here’s his guest post. Thanks, Ken!*
Sturgill Simpson looked around at the packed room at Brighton Music Hall last week, seemingly sizing us up. “What’s up, Boston,” he said, then launched into “Livin’ The Dream,” with the crowd more shouting-along than singing. The date at BMH was rescheduled from July 12, as he was tapped to open for Zac Brown on a string of dates in July and August.
Sturgill has the perfect balance of humility (when he’s talking) and cockiness (when he’s singing). He plays with a little bit of a chip on his shoulder, knowing that he and his band are really good; also knowing that they have played a lot of empty rooms over the years, leading him to quit music for a while. Miles Miller plays drums and Kevin Black plays bass–the only reason you might overlook their understated, spot-on rhythm is that every solo Laur Joamets takes on lead guitar is jaw-slackening and Simpson’s vocals are so forceful.
After a couple of songs, someone shouted “Long White Line!” Without missing a beat, Sturgill just said, “We’ll get there,” in a settle-down tone. Then, he elaborated, “I don’t write set lists,” he said, “and we play what we feel like playing. But we’ll play ‘em all, so you don’t have to worry about it.” He was as good as his word. He played all but one song from his debut High Top Mountain, most of Metamodern Sounds in Country Music, and a few covers, because, as he said, “Even though most people haven’t heard ‘em, I get tired of playing my shit.” While introducing “Turtles All The Way Down,” a song with references to hallucinogenic drugs that has been picked apart by journalists (“And none of ‘em have got it right”), Sturgill pointed out Graham Uhelski in the audience, who directed the song’s music video, thanking him for his support and artistry. After the song, he walked to the front of the stage, and Uhelski came forward–they shook hands and exchanged a few words, with clear mutual respect and affection.
This was probably the last chance to see him in a venue where you talk directly to the performer. When Sturgill reflected that it’s been a “crazy couple of months,” since Metamodern broke through and garnered him national attention, a fan said “Congratulations, man,” and Sturgill looked right at him, thanking him. “You made it!” someone else said. He smiled a little and said, “We’ve crawled our way to the beginning. That’s still a van parked out back.” When he comes back through Boston, it will be at a bigger venue with a tour bus parked outside. But he’ll still play what he feels like and the crowd will be lucky to shout along.