A&E

Five thoughts: Chris Stapleton at the Pearl (March 30)

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Chris Stapleton, performing at the Pearl on March 30.
Photo: David Becker

1. His new album isn’t out until May (and still doesn’t have a title or a track listing or a single), but that didn’t stop Stapleton from sharing multiple new songs, which ranged from radio-friendly (the catchy, heartfelt “Broken Halos”) to turbulent and dark (the slow-burn blues number “Death Row”). Never one to worry about being mainstream or crowd-pleasing, Stapleton threw in unfamiliar songs throughout the set and just expected the audience to come along for the ride (which it mostly did).

2. The last time he headlined in Vegas, at the Joint in April 2016, Stapleton only played for a little over an hour; this time he performed for nearly twice that long, perhaps a result of increasing comfort with his country-music stardom. The sold-out crowd eagerly sang along to songs from Stapleton’s 2015 debut solo album, Traveller, (from which he performed 12 of the 14 tracks) with such enthusiasm that after finishing “Fire Away,” Stapleton had the audience lead its own a cappella rendition of the song’s chorus.

Maren Morris

Maren Morris

3. Unlike a lot of country stars, who bring large groups of musicians on tour, Stapleton performs with just a bassist and a drummer, plus his wife Morgane on backing vocals. And yet this small band created a more powerful sound than many polished country ensembles, with Stapleton demonstrating as much virtuosity on the guitar as in his vocals, and numerous songs ending with extended jams.

4. Although Morgane didn’t add a whole lot to most songs musically, she was a warm stage presence, and she stepped ably into the spotlight to deliver lead vocals on a bluesy, heart-wrenching rendition of the old standard “You Are My Sunshine,” which she performs with her husband on the Dave Cobb-curated compilation Southern Family.

5. Opener Maren Morris is far more pop-oriented than Stapleton, and while her voice is fantastic, her material can be a little bland. Still, she was energetic and upbeat, and she displayed surprising grit on her rendition of John Prine’s “Angel From Montgomery” and on her own “I Wish I Was.” Stapleton has impressively bridged the gap between mainstream pop-country and roots-oriented Americana, and having someone like Morris open for him only strengthens that connection.

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Josh Bell

Josh Bell is the film editor for Las Vegas Weekly, where he's been writing movie and TV reviews since 2002. ...

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