After a six-year hiatus, I found myself back at the Pepsi Center in Denver for a show – Chris Stapleton playing live for 18,000 fans. I was very excited about this show because I’ve been listening to Chris Stapleton Pandora and all three of his albums on vinyl for the last year – especially after last summer’s epic Red Rocks performance. His music has also been a staple (see what I did there) on my radio show for almost two years. Anyway, I couldn’t wait for him to take the stage on Friday night.
As I waited for his arrival, I thought about the last time I was at Pepsi Center – for Poison and Def Leppard in June 2012. While clearly a different audience than a country show, the Poison/Def Leppard event was just that. An event. Both bands were excited to be there and the crowd loved every minute of the seemingly endless energy exuded from both bands.
While it’s hard to compete with Red Rocks in terms of the view and overall experience, it is nice to walk in and out of the Pepsi Center in a matter of minutes from downtown Denver. You can’t beat that kind of convenience. Anyway, logistics aside, here are the main differences between Stapleton at Red Rocks versus Pepsi Center:
Chris Stapleton at RR in May 2017:
- Usually open-air means people are more relaxed – especially since the weather was beautiful that night.
- Stapleton was on stage with his wife Morgane who always sings backup. To say they have chemistry is an understatement.
- At that point he was still fairly new to the country scene in terms of being a performer (rather than a songwriter) so not everyone knew every song.
- Traveller was released two years prior (May 2015) and From A Room: Volume 1 had just been released that month.
- Stapleton was amazing but not extremely talkative – almost like he couldn’t believe all those people were there to see him.
Chris Stapleton at PC August 2018:
- Generally speaking, indoor arenas are usually more approachable. Red Rocks is beautiful but as anyone who has even been there knows, it’s a pain in the ass to get in and out of in terms of time, parking, and people who can’t handle all the walking.
- Fans at this show knew the words to all the ballads. I mean every single one. It was exciting because Stapleton is a legit songwriter who has gained popularity being exactly who he is and it was also interesting because an outlaw country guy is selling out shows all over the country to couples from all walks of life.
- Most of the people we interacted with were happy to be there but we were also surrounded by a few complainers which took away from the experience.
- As predicted, Morgane was not on stage as she gave birth to twins in April 2018. Her absence was felt but at the same time Stapleton’s band was excellent.
- Stapleton has clearly found his footing as a performer – he was much more engaging with the crowd and was very funny.
- For the encore, Stapleton and his band came out in Rockies jerseys which of course everyone loved.
I told myself that I was not going to spend a lot of time ranting but I will say this. People need to realize that concert venues are not libraries. End of story. I’ve seen a lot of shows over the last 20 years and people who attend have to understand that sitting isn’t going to happen, people are going to sing along, and we’re all there for a good time. For example, I don’t smoke marijuana but I am aware of the fact that I live in Colorado and always take into consideration the music I am there to see. I could not believe that I heard concertgoers complaining about others smoking weed in a state where it’s legal while the act we were there to see was literally singing a song called “Them Stems.”
If you don’t like standing, singing along, being around fans who are indulging in a few drinks or smoking a few joints, go to a symphony. Period. I guarantee Stapleton and his entire band were doing the same thing before and after the show (and maybe even during). Rock and roll (and country music) will survive.