In early June, a capacity crowd greeted country star Chris Stapleton, with Michigan’s own The War & Treaty and Marcus King also on board. The review was the 13th most popular story of the year.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Our countdown of 2023’s top stories at Local Spins continues today with a look back at our June review of the Grand Rapids tour stop for Chris Stapleton, The War and Treaty and Marcus King. Scroll down for the photo gallery.
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Brandishing voices that ooze buckets of soul, both acts delivered music that pushed the boundaries of rootsy Americana with passionate resonance on June 2 at Grand Rapids’ sold-out Van Andel Arena.
Indeed, Stapleton’s superb, goosebumps-inducing rendition of his R&B-laced “Cold” near the end of his set could easily have found a home as a guest track on The War and Treaty’s latest album, “Lover’s Game.”
Granted, the rest of his set reverberated with country twang, Southern rock flourishes and Stapleton’s masterful songcraft, but all three acts on the bill — Stapleton, The War and Treaty and Marcus King — exhibited the sort of fiery vocal prowess that turns heads.
With temperatures topping 90 degrees outside in early June, Michael and Tanya Trotter of The War and Treaty — who got their start in Albion before relocating to Nashville — did their best during an upbeat, 30-minute opening set to match the sizzling weather with blistering takes on songs from their new major-label album, including the rollicking, rock-fueled title track, “Lover’s Game.”
Reveling in the opportunity to showcase their songs for a crowd mostly unfamiliar with their music — and even though the arena was barely half full during the opening set due to late arrivals — the duo gave plenty of shoutouts to their Michigan fans along the way and proved they deserve the spotlight on a big arena stage.
“Michigan, we here,” Michael Trotter shouted early on. “We’re in one of the greatest states ever.”
Marcus King, touring behind his new album, “Young Blood,” followed with a high-volume set that while energetically delivered didn’t seem to jibe entirely with the evening’s musical theme. Band members wore cowboy hats, but this was blistering blues-rock through and through, with a sometimes-overwhelming bass mix.
But Marcus — with a seven-piece band, including a horn section — stood out not only with some impressive guitar work but also showing off his vocal prowess on the stellar blues ballad, “Beautiful Stranger.”
SING-ALONGS FROM A CAPACITY CROWD
With the arena now filled to capacity, Stapleton promptly delivered a spectacle rich in poignant songwriting, top-shelf musicianship, country charm, Southern rock-fueled romps and visual brilliance, starting with “Nobody to Blame” and “Parachute” — songs which instantly inspired sing-alongs from an audience of 11,000-plus that simply refused to sit down for nearly the entire show.
“We’re gonna have some fun, I can tell,” Stapleton told the crowd early on.
Fans and band alike most certainly did, through dead-on renditions of “Second One to Know” “Starting Over” and “Millionaire,” before taking a break to allow Stapleton a chance to shine in solo fashion on several songs, including “Maggie’s Song,” the sad tale of the demise of the singer’s beloved dog.
Beyond “Cold,” other evening highlights included the rock-driven fun of “Midnight Train to Memphis” and a compellingly catchy new song, “Crossland,” a tribute of sorts to the nation’s truckers — tracks among many that set Stapleton apart from the usual country fare.
“The devil named music is taking my life,” he sang on yet another of those distinctive songs. If so, it’s been a life worth savoring for legions of his devoted fans.
PHOTO GALLERY: Chris Stapleton, Marcus King, The War and Treaty
Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids
Photos by Chelsea Whitaker