C2C REVIEW: Chris Stapleton – The O2, London

Credit: Graham Joy

Three years ago, when Chris Stapleton made his C2C debut, we all knew we were in the presence of greatness. The world just hadn’t quite discovered him yet. The announcement of him returning to C2C to headline Sunday night at The O2 was pretty much universally welcomed, and you could feel the buzz around the place all day on Sunday. Chris Stapleton is, without a shadow of a doubt, the biggest act in country music today when you take sales into consideration, and we’re incredibly lucky that we have a platform like C2C that allows us to witness the biggest and the best at work.

You know what you’re going to get with Chris Stapleton, but it’s mesmerising every time. No big light shows, a small group of musicians, and not much audience interaction either. Chris comes on stage, powers his way through the set list, and leaves the building; there’s nothing else to it. Nothing else is required. Accompanied, as always, by his wife Morgane (who did well to make it over here being so heavily pregnant!), as well as a drummer and bassist, it’s as simplistic as it gets, and the focus is totally on those killer electric guitar riffs and Chris’ legendary vocal ability.

His set list was a mix from across his three albums to date, starting with the rocky ‘Midnight Train To Memphis’. As soon as he kicked into that epic introduction, the arena came alive. Chris sounds awesome on studio recordings, but you really have to see him live to appreciate the scale of the man’s talent. He lets loose even more in the live shows; the vocal range and power is simply astonishing. There were elements of more up-beat, edgy material all the way through his set, including ‘Second One To Know’ (where he nonchalantly stopped after the first chorus to re-tune his guitar!) and ‘Parachute’, a welcome addition to the set list after he left it out last time.

Credit: Graham Joy

But the real ‘wow’ moments were the ballads. ‘Whiskey and You’ made 20,000 jaws drop three years ago, and he accomplished that feat once again with very little effort. ‘Either Way’ was a barrage of emotion and one of the most flawless, awe-inspiring performances I’ve ever seen in my lifetime. And the harmonies with Morgane during ‘More Of You’ were to die for. There were plenty of big singalong moments too, with singles like ‘Millionaire’, ‘Broken Halos’ and ‘Fire Away’. These have all become country music anthems, and there were plenty of people on their feet, singing at the top of their lungs.

Closing the show with ‘Tennessee Whiskey’ needs no description – it was the moment everyone had been waiting for. Leaving the stage to rapturous applause, Chris returned soon after for a performance of ‘Sometimes I Cry’, which can only be described as a masterclass in vocal gymnastics. ‘Thank you, good night’, said Chris, as he trundled his way off stage whilst 20,000 people gave him a standing ovation. Ultra-cool.

Admittedly, I don’t choose to put on Chris Stapleton’s music very often, but watching him live, you just have to sit back and admire his talent. A voice like that only comes around once in a blue moon.

Dan Wharton
@LifeInASong_Dan

Set List:
1. Midnight Train to Memphis
2. Nobody to Blame
3. Hard Livin’
4. Millionaire
5. Fire Away
6. Might As Well Get Stoned
7. Nobody’s Lonely Tonight
8. Whiskey and You
9. Either Way
10. More Of You
11. Broken Halos
12. Second One to Know
13. Traveller
14. Outlaw State of Mind
15. Parachute
16. Tennessee Whiskey
17. Sometimes I Cry