I’ve spoken at length on this site about how special shows are when an artist returns home to the folks that helped create them. I’m going to do that again, but this time, it’s different. It’s special. It’s electric and if you missed it, I am truly sorry.
Lawrence County was the spot where the earth and cosmos collided to allow us earthlings to receive our Country Music Savior, but Lexington, Kentucky and Huntington, WV shaped this young man into the entertainer that he is. If you haven’t pieced it together by now, I’m talking about Kentucky’s newest favorite son, Mr. Tyler Childers.
Tyler spent years toiling around places like Al’s Bar, the Green Lantern and the V-Club, playing anywhere that would have him. He learned how to harness his tremendous observational skills and craft songs that describe us as Kentuckians. His lyrics, his stories, his charm, his wit, his believability, his honesty describe the characteristics that make us Kentuckians a special breed. Our blood is definitely thicker than water and family is by far the most important aspect of who we are. But, if I may, Tyler also shines a light on the not so nice flaws that many us suffer with. That balance is his secret sauce. No other artist, at least in my lifetime, has ever been a more truthful voice in being a representative of us. Tyler Childers is the voice of our people.
I spoke with someone recently about Tyler and I stumbled upon something that I think will shed some light on why so many folks are drawn to Tyler. Tyler has taken intelligent music, reworked it with a blue-collar sensibility and it just clicks. Think about this, Jazz is some of the most complex music on the planet, but hardly anyone delves deep into it. Tyler’s lyrics are complex fables and love stories and romps and genuine because he has rounded off the edges of harshness that many find abrasive with complex music and melodies. He has made intelligence accessible and he has made it cool.
So it should be of no surprise that this two-night stand at the Manchester Music Hall sold out in seconds, months ago. Shoot, follow his journey, it’s actually a rarity when one of his shows doesn’t sell-out.
He made his Grand Ole Opry and Ryman debut just a few weeks ago. (Which by the way, you can read more about here.) His star is not rising at a quickened pace, his star is a damn supernova and moving like a comet at the speed of light. Name another emerging artist that has a set list comprised of more unreleased songs than it does album tracks. Go ahead, I’ll wait.
You back? Couldn’t do it could ya? See that’s the thing about Tyler Childers, he doesn’t and will not play by the normal rules. It’s not defiant, it’s just who he is. He has and will continue to blaze his own path and now that folks are catching on, the only thing that can or will stop his rising star is himself. His fans aren’t going anywhere. He has developed an almost cult-like following but in a good way. Much like the Grateful Dead, Phish and Widespread Panic, he has developed a blue-collar following that will support him to the ends of the earth.
Lexington on Friday night was the exclamation point on the statement above. The sound guys had to push the sound just to get it loud enough to be heard. You had a 1 in 10 chance of seeing someone NOT singing back every lyric. Including all of those unreleased songs.
Out of all the songs played on Friday, I thought my ears were going to bleed during “Feathered Indians”, the “Fire In The Hole” portion of “I Swear To God” and of course the line about “A Fella From Eastern Kentucky” in “Honky Tonk Flame”. If those didn’t register seismic activity on the richter scale, I would be shocked. Holy crap! What incredible moments to be a small part of.
As I said the crowd was absolutely electric. It was hot. Everyone was sweating. Most folks were packed in like sardines, but no one really cared in that moment. This was, after all, their prodigal son returning home and this was their party to show him some love.
I do want to say that plenty folks took to complain on social media later about the heat though. Plenty may not actually be accurate, MOST may suffice. I am not one to bash anyone or really a complainer, so this section is a difficult one to type. I know the owner (He was there working and sweating as much as we all were.) and some of the staff, they were just as upset as everyone else. The owner and staff were extremely apologetic, but I do hope they closed the doors and add some fans for the folks that are going on Saturday night. The heat was honestly overwhelming for some, uncomfortable for most and offensive to everyone (Staff included). Again, I am not one to bash folks, because I too have had to host a show where it was miserably hot because of AC problems, (Sorry Black Stone Cherry and Buckcherry) but when even the floors are sweating it’s dangerous. Enough complaining though. I don’t like negative energy. We all thankfully survived and still were given an amazing show and in the end, that’s the only thing that matters.
Now a bit about those unreleased songs. I have been privileged to see most of Tyler’s catalog in a live setting, but there were three songs in particular that I hadn’t experienced. Those being “A Song While You’re Away”, “Ever-Loving Hand” and “Losing You”. Wouldn’t ya know it, we were blessed with all three and not one of em disappointed. Hell, I’m yet to ever be disappointed in any song from our TimmyTy. He just gets it.
One thing that did somewhat surprise me, was the fact that Tyler didn’t do any songs by himself. There is often times a break for the band in the set and Tyler sings a few songs acoustically. That is one aspect that I know many, many folks love because it just feels so intimate.
Other highlights included “Bus Route”, “Peace Of Mind”, their cover of the Charlie Daniels classic “Trudy” and…oh bullsh!t, all of em were highlights and you damn well know that. Lol
As his popularity has risen, Tyler rarely does encores anymore. I’m assuming his ole buddy Sturgill Simpson has rubbed off on him a bit in that regard, but this crowd simply would not leave and would not stop chanting “Tyler! Tyler! Tyler!”. They were not going to be denied. So after nearly ten minutes, Tyler and the crew came back out for an encore. The band began playing “Breakdown” by Tom Petty. Tyler Childers the musician suddenly became Tyler Childers the stand-up comedian. While the band continued to play, Tyler told two dirty jokes. If there has ever been a more boss move, I haven’t seen it.
The crowd was rowdy but kind. Sweaty but loving. Tipsy, but always there to help each other up. Kinda sounds like someone else we may know, huh? Don’t take my word for it, take a look below at that big ole smile on the face of Kid Rock. He gets it. He brought two limo buses from Nashville full of folks to enjoy Tyler’s set. So Kid, for all the crappy things folks have said about you in the past, I think you just wiped your slate clean for a whole lot of folks.
I want to wrap this up in a simple way. Welcome home, TimmyTy. I look forward to seeing you and the boys for many more years to come. Just take your Dad’s advice and you’ll be fine. “Keep your nose on the grindstone and out of the pills”. See ya in Iowa at The Hinterland Music Festival, we’re taking this show on the road with you.