July 21, 2017
Chris Stapleton first made a name for himself by writing songs for Peter Frampton, Sheryl Crow, Thomas Rhett, Luke Bryan, Vince Gill, Josh Turner, Adele and many more. As a songwriter he has scored six country number-one songs including "Never Wanted Nothing More" by Kenny Chesney, George Strait's "Love's Gonna Make It Alright" and "Come Back Song" recorded by Darius Rucker.
Stapleton also served as the frontman and main songwriter for the SteelDrivers from 2008 to 2010. In 2010, he left the SteelDrivers to focus and his family and his songwriting craft. In 2015, Stapleton released his debut solo album Traveller (Mercury Nashville). The album was a huge hit and Stapleton won multiple Grammy Awards, Country Music Awards and Billboard Music Awards. As of July 2017, it had sold over 2 million copies. In May of 2017, Stapleton released From A Room: Volume 1 (Mercury Nashville) and the album debuted at number 2 on the Billboard 200 album chart. Where Traveller was more of an old school country affair with a touch of southern rock, the music on From A Room: Volume 1, while still country, has more of a blues, roots and rock feel.
Anderson East is a neo-soul, rhythm and blues performer who was born Michael Cameron Anderson in Athens, AL. His major-label record debut, Delilah, was released on the Low Country Sound/Elektra imprint in 2015. Prior to that he released two independently released albums: Flowers of the Broken Hearted (2012) and (as Mike Anderson) Closing Credits for a Fire (2009).
East has also lent his songwriting talents to other artists. He co-wrote two songs ("Getaway Driver" and "Well-Rested") with Miranda Lambert for her 2016 album, The Weight of These Wings (RCA Nashville).
Brent Cobb is also signed to Low Country Sound/Elektra Records. Cobb's sound is a slightly twangy, blue collar country/Americana mix with a dash of bluegrass. Cobb, like Stapleton has written songs for numerous country artists including, but not limited to: Luke Bryan, Kenny Chesney, Miranda Lambert, Kellie Pickler, and Little Big Town.
During his short career, Cobb has released two albums (No Place Left to Leave on the Beverly Martel Label in 2006 and the 2016 Low Country Sound/Elektra release Shine On Rainy Day). He also released a self-titled independently released EP in 2012.
On a humid night following an even more humid day that had constantly threatened rain, Stapleton, East and Cobb touched down at the Northwell Health at Jones Beach Theater, a cozy waterfront amphitheater located in Wantagh, NY. Despite the weather, the heat and sticky weather, prior to the show the parking lots were filled with fans tailgating, partying and listening to music in preparation for the evening's festivities. Inside the venue, the fans were preparing themselves for the performance by batting a number of beach balls across the orchestra seats and general admission pit. As the venue filed, the crowd in the main outdoor lobby engaged in retail therapy, purchasing t-shirts, baseball caps, CDs and commemorative posters.
With the sun still shining brightly at 7pm, Cobb took the stage. Cobb humbly announced, "My Name is Brent Cobb and I'm from Georgia. We're glad to be a part of this road show with Chris Stapleton and Anderson East."
Cobb's short but energetic and formidable eight song set, showed why he earned his spot on this tour. His set leaned heavily on tracks from Shine On Rainy Day. The crowd obviously knew the material as audience members were seen singing along with Cobb on "Diggin' Holes," "Country Bound" and others. Cobb was content to deliver his songs and only paused twice. He introduced "Aint A Road Too Long" as being "a brand new song for those of you who don't know...most of you." Prior to playing a spectacular version of "Guitars, Cadillacs," a cover of the Dwight Yoakam hillbilly classic, Cobb asked, "How 'bout a little honky-tonk?"
Anderson East was up next. The man is a force of nature. He is also a showman. Energy and charisma just ooze from his pores. He never stops moving and feeds off his own energy, the energy put forth by his band and the energy of his audience.
East's performance began following the introduction by his guitarist "We came here tonight to set your mind and your asses free...Ladies and gentlemen Anderson East." The singer bound out onto the stage and delivered ten powerful, driving, soul-drenched songs. He and his band transformed the general admission pit into a dance floor as the soulful "Quit You" got the audience bopping and juking. The next song, a spirited cover of George Jackson's "Find 'Em, Fool 'Em and Forget 'Em" featured a bluesy trumpet and saxophone accompaniment. East donned a guitar for the Lynyrd Skynyrd rave-up "Gimme Three Steps." The entire audience took notice and sang along on the southern rock classic. A smart performer seizes the moment. East is a smart man. Knowing that the audience was already animated and happy, East grabbed it by the throat when he announced that, "This next song is about fornicatin' with the preacher's daughter." He then delivered an excellent version of "Devil In Me." The remainder of the set was pure energy. East bouncing across the stage, right to left and back again as he sang "Sorry You're Sick," "I Think I'm In Love With Ur Girlfriend," "Learning." An amazing cover of Sam & Dave's "Hold On, I'm Comin'" worked the crowd further into a frenzy.
As East's performance came to a close with "All I'll Ever Need" and "Satisfy Me" the entire crowd is on its feet singing, dancing and celebrating along with the band. As quickly as he appeared on stage, he was gone. Anderson East definitely made new fans on this evening and judging from the cheers and shouts of "one more song" left them wanting more.
After an intermission, at shortly past 9pm, the lights again dimmed and the loudspeakers came to life, blaring the Band's "Up On Cripple Creek." As the song faded out, purple strobes and a buzzing flooded the stage. The band members too their places. The crowd rose to its feet, Stapleton (wearing his signature cowboy hat) took his place center stage under the curved band-shell shaped lighting structure and he and his band roared into "Might As Well Get Stoned." The next song, "Nobody To Blame" found the audience standing and singing along with Stapleton.
Stapleton seems to not want to rest on his laurels. On "Midnight Train to Memphis" he and the band gave the song a Bo Diddley backbeat and a killer guitar riff injecting a new vitality into the song he had written as a member of the bluegrass outfit the SteelDrivers.
Other highlights included "Them Stems;" "Outlaw State of Mind;" "Parachute" with its pop sensibility; the waltzy sing-along of "Fire Away;" "Trying To Untangle My Mind;" "More of You;" a passionate version of "Sometimes I Cry;" the honky-tonk lament "Whiskey and You;" the bluesy "Death Row" and, of course, "Traveler." Stapleton, his band (bassist J.T. Cure, drummer Derek Mixon and his wife Morgane, who sang back-up) was top-flight. They spent the evening creating magic and the audience reveled and delighted in the performance.
Stapleton has "it." "It" is hard to define. Call is star quality or call is charisma, or talent, or maybe an amazing combination of all of those things plus something else that is hard to grasp and define. Call is what you want. Stapleton has "it." The man has a soulful, bluesy, countrified, voice that delivers Americana in just the right tone and format. His songwriting is top-notch with almost perfect phrasing. His guitar playing and the accompaniment of the backing musicians hits the right tones. If he keeps it up, he will become an American treasure. Popular and critical acclaim for his mixture of country, southern rock, blues, honky-tonk, outlaw, bluegrass, pop and rock has him well on his way. He's a modern-day Willie Nelson with a better voice.
Photo Credit: Christine Connallon