There are two types of shows that I LIVE for as a journalist and photographer. The first is a hometown show. There’s absolutely nothing like the energy of seeing folks come home to a sea of appreciation. The second, and the category that this show falls in, is when an artist that I’ve previously witnessed on a small stage returns to that same fanfare of a hometown show. It’s a thing of beauty and it’s why I knew I had to cover this show.
See, back in 2019, before the dreaded c-word, I witnessed a young lady on a small stage in the front yard of one of my favorite families on this planet. That would be the Roberts from good ole Ross’ Creek. If you don’t know the family, until the pandemic, they hosted Kickin’ It On The Creek. Morgan’s performance was a favorite for a multitude of reasons. Number one being just how much Morgan performing meant to Kelli Roberts. Seeing Kelli pull up a chair on the side of that stage warmed my heart like few things have in my lifetime.
That hot September, I saw a Morgan Wade that was still in her protective shell. She was hesitant to talk a lot, somewhat ashamed of her Virginia accent, until she heard all of us talk and she knew she was fine. Lol Morgan hid behind her sunglasses for that performance. She was a young lady that had all the tools she needed to succeed, but she was uncertain how the world would react to her and her music.
I saw her again last year at the Laurel Cove Music Festival, and she was much more comfortable on stage and I was impressed with how much growth she had made in a relatively short time. I love her music, but the curiosity of watching an artist realize their dreams is the element that I love most about a show like Friday night. We’ll get to what I saw this time around, but first, I need to tell y’all about the artist that opened the show.
I was completely unaware that there was an opening act until I stepped onto the Burl property, so my usual research simply wasn’t possible. Having said that, J.D. Clayton played songs from his upcoming release and sprinkled in a few covers to get the party started. So my research would’ve been all for not anyways.
If forced, I would throw out a comparison to Brent Cobb for J.D. Clayton and his band. A bit of a retro vibe in both stylings and music. A good warm vocal tone with some Arkansas soul and backwoods twang thrown in. J.D. Clayton and the fellas know their lane and that’s half the battle in a sea of pearl buttons and trucker hats. These fellas are road dogs, and it shows in every conceivable way. One could say that they’ve put in their 10,000 hours, so I fully expect big things from these fellas in the near future.
Since everything they played was new, I really can’t provide an in-depth review, but I can say that their covers of Tracy Chapman’s “Give Me One Reason” and of the Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Midnight Special” were as tasty as some good old fried chicken with a cold pitcher of sweet tea. The CCR classic was my Dad’s favorite, so I had a little moment there remembering Dad and how much he would’ve enjoyed the performance. So keep your eyes and ears open for these fellas, I’m certain this won’t be their last trip through Kentucky.
After a quick changeover, it was time for Morgan Wade to take the stage. The crowd was eager and the anticipation was tremendous. You could feel the electricity in the air. Lexington knew they were about to party with one of the fastest-rising artists in the game today. So let’s hit a few highlights from Friday night, shall we?
Morgan began the show by following her band on stage and she had a little ribbing to give her band after they had told her that there weren’t many folks that showed up. It brought several large smiles from Morgan, and a good chuckle out of the crowd. That smile set the tone for the aforementioned curiosity. I knew in that quick moment that Morgan was incredibly comfortable on that stage, and her performance was a direct result of that.
The night began with the title track from Morgan’s debut album, ‘Reckless.’ Her smiles and lightheartedness were quickly put away for the intense and purposeful glare that Morgan often displays during her performances. It’s an attribute that many folks simply can’t do, and that is seemingly transporting themselves to the mindset and memories that created the music in the first place. My favorite example of this was during “Mend.” You can see just how quickly Morgan can flip that switch from enjoyment to the dark corners of her mind that she has explored.
Video provided by Beth Boylan:
I was smitten to hear “When All The Dirt Settles” included in the setlist. It’s my favorite addition to Deluxe Edition of ‘Reckless’ that Morgan released back in January. This is just my opinion, but I think Morgan’s new music will lean more in the direction of “When The Dirt Settles.” It has a very pop-oriented chorus and some guitar licks reminiscent of Edge from U2, undoubtedly an addition by Sadler Vaden in the studio. Sadler is the guitarist for Jason Isbell, and he discovered Morgan and produced her album. Morgan affectionately refers to Sadler as Dadler now, and it’s absolutely adorable.
Then came the payoff for all the hard work to get to this point. The first REALLY loud sing-a-long happened during “Take Me Away.” As Morgan began to sing, the crowd sang it back to her so loud, that she eventually just let the crowd have it. It was one of my favorite moments on Friday night, and thanks to friend of the site, Beth Boylan, you can enjoy that moment as well.
From that moment on, the beer was flowing and the voices were warmed up and ready. As Morgan performed my personal favorite song, “Matches and Metaphors,” the crowd became a wonderful choir and the party was in full effect. Lexington came to party and Morgan happily provided the soundtrack.
“Carry Me Home” was one of my favorite performances. Morgan seemed relaxed and really let loose vocally, and if you’ve ever heard her let loose, you know damn well that this performance was fantastic. It’s another song where she transports us all to whatever headspace she wants to share with us, and I enjoyed it way more than I expected in a live setting.
I do want to take a quick moment here to commend The Burl, they’ve really stepped up their game for the outside shows. Morgan was crystal clear and at a very listenable level. In fact, this was likely the best sound I’ve witnessed at The Burl. Kudos to their whole team for a job VERY well done.Check out this performance of “Northern Lights” to put yourself in the fantastic lights and sound.
“Suspicious Minds” by Elvis is one of those iconic songs that many are afraid to tackle, and rightfully so, but not Morgan Wade. Nope. She completely makes that song her own and the crowd loves every single note. You’ll rarely hear me praise anyone covering Elvis because you’re never going to do it any better, so you start with a huge deficit, BUT if you can do it justice, and that’s exactly what Morgan does with her version, then you’re alright in my book.
After a flawless performance of “The Other Side,” Morgan then began playing a medley that included, “I Don’t Wanna Lose Your Love,” by The Outfield and the classic “Jessie’s Girl” by Rick Springfield. IF there had been a roof over the people, it would’ve landed somewhere near Indianapolis because Morgan and her band absolutely blew it to Smithereens…so maybe not Indy, but you get my point! HOLY. $H!T. That was just too much fun!
Give Beth a sub on YouTube if ya enjoy this one. She’s good peeps, I promise!
Next up was “The Night” and it was just ridiculously good. Were we still high from the medley? Maybe, but it doesn’t matter because Morgan was in full bad a$$ mode and she was owning every note and move she made. I was giddy because “The Night” is home to my second set of Morgan lyrics. The depth and transparency of Wade’s past struggles are why her music resonates within so many people, myself included.
Check these out:
Well I’d love to get to sleep but I can’t get too deep
Though I am doing the best that I can
My mind likes to talk about everything I am not
And even worse everything I am
As someone who has struggled with depression my entire life, those lyrics hit the bullseye on my heart every single time.
It was now time for the lone spotlight to shine upon Morgan as she performed several songs with just her and her acoustic on the Burl Stage. I always look forward to acoustic moments, as they allow me closer to the artists, so if I’m honest, I took zero notes here and just soaked up the greatness. That’s probably selfish to many, but I’ve had a long battle with my health to get back to the point where I am even able to physically do what I do, so hopefully, y’all will allow me a free pass here. Because my soul needed that more than I ever dreamed. Ain’t music just wonderful?
The band slowly trickled back onstage as Morgan performed “Met You.” The crowd was a bit talkative on the night, but during this one, most had the courtesy to shut up and enjoy the incredible moments they were witnessing. By the time the song came to the abrupt end we’re all accustomed to, the band was swelling in behind Morgan and really capitalizing on the dynamics of the moment. I’d argue with anyone, that this one was the greatest performance on Friday night. It was everything Morgan Wade embodies and it was absolutely perfect. Morgan was feeling it like I’d never seen her before. She too was living in that moment and she frankly sang her a$$ off.
As the chords of “Wilder Days” hit the crowd, there was a large roar of recognition, followed by a beautiful choir of backing vocals. Some perfect, many drunk, all perfect in that moment. So, what more could you ask for? As an artist, or as a patron, you had a great Friday night and as Morgan’s star continues to shine brighter, we’ll all be able to look back and remember how Morgan Wade performed on one of the smaller stages she’ll command going forward. She’s already playing arena dates with the likes of Kentuckian Chris Stapleton and Country radio juggernaut Luke Combs.
Count your blessings, Lexington. This one was special.
Thanks for reading, and thanks again to Beth Boylan for all the great work she does. She was riding the rail all night. So to end this off, enjoy the latter part of “Met You” and “Wilder Days” below. Love y’all!