Concert review: Chris Stapleton Kroger Field Lexington show

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It took two years for it to finally happen, but it’s safe to say that Chris Stapleton’s homecoming concert to Lexington was well worth the wait.

A show that will undoubtedly set the blueprint for similar events at a stadium that is normally filled with University of Kentucky football fans, Kroger Field.

But this time the lower deck and upper decks of the stadium were mostly full of country music fans.

Originally scheduled for April 2020 before being postponed twice due to COVID-19, “A Concert For Kentucky” — the first music concert ever at Kroger Field on the UK campus — went off without a hitch with the exception of slow traffic outside the stadium, which was to be expected.

The a benefit show also featured Willie Nelson, Sheryl Crow and Madeline Edwards with net proceeds going to the Outlaw State of Kind Hometown Fund at Blue Grass Community Foundation, a charitable fund established by the Stapleton and his wife/performance partner Morgane Stapleton.

Kentucky native Chris Stapleton played during “A Concert for Kentucky “ at Kroger Field on April 23, 2022. It was the first music concert ever at Lexington’s Kroger Field. Mark Cornelison

The crowd at Chris Stapleton’s Kroger Field April 24, 2022 show, the first ever concert at the stadium. Mark Cornelison

Chris Stapleton’s set at Kroger Field

With the crowd nearly boiling over in anticipation Stapleton wasted no time digging into high-strung heavy hitters like the show opening “Nobody To Blame” and “Parachute,” both from his 2015 album “Traveller” that thrust him into the national country music spotlight.

“Starting Over,” the title track from this year’s Grammy winner for “Best Country Album,” followed along with a solo spurt of songs from Stapleton that yielded stripped down versions of “Whiskey and You” and “Traveller.”

After the solo breakdown Stapleton and crew turned the ante back up to 11 with rockin’ renditions of “Arkansas” and “Midnight Train to Memphis” — the latter a tune he first wrote as a member of bluegrass group The Steeldrivers — before giving way to another Grammy winner in “Cold,” which earlier this month netted the award for “Best Country Song.”

Chris Stapleton played some stripped down versions of songs plus some of his recent Grammy winners during “A Concert for Kentucky “ at Kroger Field on April 23, 2022. Mark Cornelison Mark Cornelison

Other highlights from Stapleton’s homecoming star-studded performance include a phone lit stadium for the finale of “Fly Away,” a heartfelt duet with wife Morgane Stapleton on “Broken Halos,” a nod to Kentucky bourbon on “Tennessee Whiskey” (“but I sure wish I had some Kentucky bourbon”) and an encore of “Outlaw State of Mind.”

Willie Nelson performs in Lexington

Prior to Stapleton’s more than two-hour long set came an extended performance from American music and cultural icon Willie Nelson. At 89 Nelson’s wear has shown in recent years on stage, but he seemed rather refreshed during his Saturday performance as he tore through song after song during his hour-long set. His vocals held up much better than expected throughout, although that didn’t stop the crowd from joining in and carrying him along on hits like “On the Road Again,” “Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys” and other iconic cuts from his 60-plus year career.

Music legend Willie Nelson opened for Chris Stapleton during “A Concert for Kentucky “ at Kroger Field on April 23, 2022. Mark Cornelison Mark Cornelison

Martha Eastman, left, and Dee Schreur cheered on Willie Nelson during Chris Stapleton “A Concert for Kentucky “ at Kroger Field on April 23, 2022. Mark Cornelison Mark Cornelison

The living legend even had a few surprises up his sleeve as well, like a waltzy cover of Ray Charles’ “Georgia On My Mind,” the Stapleton and Rodney Crowell penned “I’ll Love You Till the Day I Die,” “Will The Circle Be Unbroken” and “I’ll Fly Away” with Sheryl Crow by his side and a cover of Mac Davis’ “It’s Hard To Be Humble” for a finale.

Sheryl Crow, Madeline Edwards sets

Speaking of Sheryl Crow, the former backup singer for Michael Jackson turned international star preceded Nelson’s set with a spicy one of her own that included staples like “Every Day Is A Winding Road,” “If It Makes You Happy” and “Soak Up The Sun.” Crow also strutted across stage to a reimagining of The Rolling Stone’s “Live With Me” for good measure.

Sheryl Crow opened for Chris Stapleton during “A Concert for Kentucky “ at Kroger Field on April 23, 2022. Mark Cornelison Mark Cornelison

“A Concert for Kentucky “ at Kroger Field, the first music show at the Lexington stadium finally happened after a two-year COVID delay on April 23, 2022. Mark Cornelison Mark Cornelison

And kicking the night of music off — and setting the tone in the process — was Madeline Edwards. A member of CMT’s Next Women of Country Class of 2022, Edwards brought an infectious energy and genre-melding sound at the crossroads of country, R&B and soul to the stage in the midst of her first tour ever. The highlight of her half hour performance came during “Port City,” a harrowing ballad of independence and self discovery encapsulated in the lyric “and if I don’t sink now I may never learn to swim,” good words of encouragement for anyone with a dream that needs chasing such as her.

This story was originally published April 24, 2022 9:35 AM.

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