Chris Stapleton keeps it humble, understated at first ‘Austin City Limits’ taping 

11:13 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2017 Music
Grammy winning singer-songwriter Chris Stapleton performs for the live taping of Austin City Limits Season 43 at ACL-Live at the Moody Theater on October 23, 2017 - Photo Credit: Scott Moore/for American-Statesman

Chris Stapleton took and left the “Austin City Limits” stage Monday night amid two standing ovations, and really, that’s all you need to know. The packed house was more than ready for the country superstar’s first “ACL” taping.

But while fans in the stands shrieked and hollered at the beginning of Stapleton hits like “Second One To Know” and “Tennessee Whiskey,” Stapleton, as is his custom, let that magnificent voice of his speak for itself, the biggest and most extravagant instrument in an otherwise steadfast four-piece band. I had seen him live before, but hearing his voice up close and in person, it was clear the man needed no microphone to reach the mezzanine. 

Repeating the stage ornamentation that he has had with him since 2016, Stapleton, wife and backup singer Morgane, bassist J.T. Cure and drummer Derek Mixon treated the crowd to a set that featured songs from Stapleton’s early time with bluegrass outfit The SteelDrivers, his breakout album “Traveller," follow-up “From A Room: Volume 1” and some previews from the upcoming “Volume 2,” which drops Dec. 1.

Stapleton, who cut his teeth playing in The SteelDrivers while writing songs for some of Nashville’s biggest stars (”Drink a Beer,” “Your Man”) before breaking out with “Traveller,” still doesn’t seem too enamored with his own celebrity. The songs in this set were workmanlike pieces from a craftsman who clearly enjoys sharing his work with others. He did manage to work in a tribute to Austin’s favorite son when he introduced marijuana anthem “Them Stems,” though:

“Backstage they were telling me that Willie Nelson’s played this place like 16 times. I think he’d like this next one.”

But for all of Stapleton’s understated playing, he still had to pause a few times due to the amount of applause that erupted during “Whiskey and You” and “Fire Away.” After a brief bit of a raucous improvised guitar solo at the end of the bluesy apology ode “I Was Wrong,” he almost apologized, remarking, “I think we’re going to get along just fine if you like excessive guitar solos.” 

By the time Stapleton came back for an encore (to another standing ovation), it sounded like the crowd would have heard him perform a thousand “excessive guitar solos.” 

If you missed Stapleton’s “Austin City Limits” taping, he will be taking his “All-American Road Show” tour to the Austin 360 Ampitheater Thursday, Oct. 26. Brent Cobb and Marty Stuart And His Fabulous Superlatives will open the show. Tickets are sold out.

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