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Concert review: Hippies, hillbillies, they all love a Chris Stapleton show

Chris Stapleton played Amsoil Arena on Thursday. Photo by Andy Barron.

Chris Stapleton seems like the kind of guy who could drive a four-wheel-drive pickup to a poetry reading or Volkswagen microbus to a tractor pull and somehow make friends with everybody at both places.

His music feels genuine and honest no matter the genre: blues, jam band, hard rock and, of course, country: big-booted, foot-stompin’, a-whiskey-glass-as-big-as-Lake-Superior country music.

Five songs into his 19-song, 110-minute performance for a nearly sold-out Amsoil Arena Thursday night, Stapleton made a song introduction: “That last one was for the hillbillies, let’s play one for the hippies.”

An audience of music fans young enough to be Jerry Garcia’s grandchildren roared in approval.

Stapleton then sang the pot anthem: “Them Stems.”

But the Stapleton performance was more than just rowdy drinking and smoking songs. The 39-year-old is a master songwriter, and his material covers everything from heartbreak, to loneliness, to courage and true love.

“More of You” was one of strongest songs of the night, a sweet acoustic duet with his wife Morgane Hayes, who harmonized at his side most of the night: “From the moment you wake up till you kiss me goodnight / everything you do makes me want more of you,” they sang.

“Fire Away,” from his breakthrough 2015 solo debut album “Traveler,” earned a show-stopping ovation. And a new song, “Trying to Untangle My Mind,” sounded like an attempt to turn Bob Dylan’s “Tangled Up In Blue” into roadhouse song.

Performing with just a drummer and bass player behind him on a stage covered in a quarter dome, Stapleton never staggered far from the microphone, letting his voice as strong as a diesel train do all the entertaining.

His amazing voice control was on full display as he introduced the band to huge roars during the David Allen Coe cover “Tennessee Whiskey.” The crowd on the open floor danced and spun during the 10-minute romp.

Stapleton injured a right finger and was forced to cancel June dates for his All-American Road tour. Big-screen video showed a wrap around his pick hand, but he didn’t shy away from launching into strong, powerful guitar jams at the end of “I Was Wrong” and “Outlaw State of Mind.”

Margo Price proved to be a dynamite opening act. Fronting a five-piece band, Price blasted away on a beat-up acoustic guitar and sang like a reckless Loretta Lynn. The nine-song set included a rocked-up “Me and Bobby McGee,” with Price going gonzo on a red tambourine. She ended her performance with a breakup song she said she wrote when she was drunk, “Hurtin’ (On the Bottle).”

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