Sturgill Simpson

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author TK date 21/01/20 venue Store VEGA, Copenhagen, DEN

Country is such an easy genre to hate. Seldom has there been a more cliché-ridden and sappy genre (with the possible exception of hip-hop, at least when it comes to cliché part), yet hidden within the vast outpouring from Nashville and other genre hotspots, there are gems that do warrant your attention — even if you are not a fan of country music. Sturgill Simpson is one of the proponents of a different shade of the genre, a more political and angry-at-the-system (not your woman or the boss-man) kind of approach, which is nonetheless laden with enough twang and steel-guitars to keep it within the genre’s boundaries. And despite having had a relatively short career, Simpson has so far refused to be pigeonholed as the “Savior of Country”, and his protest at last years CMA as well as on his latest album “Sound & Fury” (which is not country in the least) leaves many of us in the crowd wondering what this show — his first on the tour — will bring.

Unfortunately, Simpson had requested for no photographers on this tour

Sturgill Simpson

The stage is bathed in red light and the backdrop is also a stunning red as the four-piece band takes the stage in a jam-packed Store VEGA, and it is quickly evident that Simpson intends to play the entire new album. The bass is causing my ears to act up and hurt (and this is coming from someone who goes to at least a hundred metal and punk shows in a year), and the sound seems rather muddled at first. The problem is, however, fixed after about three or four songs. As mentioned before, there are only a few traces of Simpson’s country pedigree on the new album and there is almost nothing left of it in this live performance. The record is a solid one, but after his show in 2017 at the Roskilde Festival, I was hoping for more of his country back catalogue to be featured tonight. After almost an hour has passed, the band has played every song on the latest album, and Simpson starts dipping into his back catalogue. But even the older tracks sound like most songs on the new album; with glimpses of country, but with most of the instruments mainly associated with country alas missing from the set-up.

Simpson is a charming guy, no doubt. The “kinda guy you’d wanna drink a brewski”-with, and he is often cracking jokes and making statements about this and that. But as he tears through his older stuff, it switches between boring renditions and moments in which his musicality becomes evident and ever-present, meaning that at times it is like listening to Neil Young shredding away at Old Black. Wise-cracks aside, Simpson does seem distant tonight, and when I move to the balcony to get a better view of the stage, his spot on the stage seems to be almost a physical manifestation of this distance. He is placed what looks like a good seven or eight metres from the edge of the stage, and to the far left of the band. As he digs further and further down his war chest of songs, it becomes repetitive and slightly boring, and I find myself looking at my watch more often than note.

After almost two hours and 20 minutes the show comes to a halt with “Call to Arms”, which is a great song, but the format of his new sound does not suit it well. The set consists of 23 tracks in total, but it could easily have been reduced by 4 or 5 songs without any effect on the overall impression I get from the performance. Indeed, “I’ve seen better” is the feeling I am left with, and when the show comes to an end, I leave the venue disappointed.


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