I’m a country/Americana-music purist who prefers vintage sounds, and the best places at Stagecoach to find acts that play this kind of music are the Mustang and Palomino tents.
Therefore, when I arrived for the second day of Stagecoach 2015 on Saturday, April 25, I headed straight for the Palomino Tent, and the 1 p.m. performance by Daniel Romano. He performed without drums, and his troubadour style came out quite nicely. He gathered a fine crowd for a performer who was kicking off the day. Later, I interviewed him, and he came off as rather hostile toward the whole Stagecoach experience, which is a shame: He was a talented performer who perfectly illustrates the musical diversity of Stagecoach.
After Romano, John Moreland took the Palomino Stage. It was quick transition given, Moreland needed just a chair and his acoustic guitar. Those who have heard his new album, High on Tulsa Heat, know his singing voice is magnificent—and his voice is just as powerful live as it is in the studio. Many attentive faces watched Moreland and hung on to every word he sang—they felt the emotion of his songs.
Later in the Palomino, Mac Davis, a songwriter for people such as Nancy Sinatra and Elvis Presley, performed to a large crowd. He explained the meaning of his songs in between, and discussed the people for whom he wrote. In a way, Davis could be considered country music’s Neil Sedaka; his sound is a throwback to the ’70s, before country music was sterilized into the modern Nashville sound.
If there was one performer in the Palomino who stole away a nice chunk of the Mane Stage crowd, it was Charles Esten. He has a role on the TV series Nashville (and, strangely enough, was once a featured performer on Whose Line Is It Anyway?), and his performance was a departure from the Americana and classic country typical in the Palomino: Esten played loud, mainstream-style country. He repeatedly reminded the audience about his role on Nashville, a show which has not yet officially been renewed, telling them at the end, “Three episodes left! Keep watching!”
After Esten, it was time for Gregg Allman. Allman has been trying to get back to normal after a liver transplant, and he’s been open about and his long, hard road to recovery. Good news: On Saturday, he looked much healthier, and he performed beautifully, both behind the piano and on the guitar. Playing a combination of solo material and Allman Brothers hits, he was a real crowd-pleaser, and the large crowd that had gathered showed him a lot of love. Of course “Midnight Rider” was included on the set list, with “No Way Out” being the last song he played. My favorite? His performance of “Jessica” early in his set.
If there was one Palomino Tent performance that should have taken place Mane Stage, it was the show by ZZ Top. After Allman’s performance, his crowd stayed, with even more people pouring in to see the bearded bluesmen from Texas.
When ZZ Top started at 9:15, it went dark, and what appeared to be a trailer for a fictional Western film starring the members of ZZ Top played on the two onstage screens. One thing is certain: Dusty Hill’s bass sound is something you can’t ignore. I wouldn’t say it’s “mighty”; I’d say it’s more like a sledgehammer to your ears, and it gives ZZ Top’s live sound am impressive personality. Both Hill and guitarist/vocalist Billy Gibbons were spot-on. The Palomino, full from the front to the very back, went wild when the trio played “Gimme All Your Lovin’” during the earlier part of their set. The band saved songs such as “Sharp Dressed Man,” “Legs” (which required a guitar change for Hill and Gibbons to their trademark white shag fuzzy guitars), “La Grange” and “Tush” for the end.
ZZ Top brought their A-game, that’s for sure.
Scroll down to see images from Stagecoach 2015’s second day.