Thomas Rhett and Maren Morris were top attractions on the opening day of the Stagecoach Festival, Friday, but when it came to the heightened emotion and pure enthusiasm of every square inch, Tanya Tucker’s peak in the Palomino tent may have ruled the day at the desert rally.
The 50-year veteran of the country hit industry sounded surprised by the roar of the crowd, late into the group, and not just in the traditional hello fashion. “It’s hard for me to believe that anyone would want to watch me,” she admitted, crying more than a hint of insecurity amid one of the brass facades at work. Lightening up a bit, she added, “Someone must have put something in your drink.”
She is joined by Tucker at the end of her set, in the final round of her smashing 1972 “Delta Dawn” (released when she was thirteen), by Orville Peck, who will do his own set in the same tent to complete a Saturday bill. Tucker and Beck weren’t newcomers to each other; They co-chaired a cozy show the night before at Pappy & Harriet’s in the desert.
Tucker had another guest during her set, albeit via FaceTime. The 63-year-old country legend held an onstage video conference with Brandi Carlisle, who was scheduled to follow her at the Palomino tent, until she had to cancel Thursday due to the COVID case. Tucker, who called Carlisle the greatest living singer and “my hero,” before announcing that they had recently gone to Los Angeles to wrap up a second album with Shooter Jennings in Los Angeles, after the previous trio won the Grammy Award for “While I’m Levin.” For the first or last time of the night, Tucker snuck a surprise into a typical fixed list: an a cappella excerpt from “That Wasn’t Me” by Carlyle.
The singer was nothing if not a model for outspokenness, from the annoyance of some slimming underwear (Tucker wondered aloud if it was really necessary to control obesity on stage) to the fact that she recently replaced her entire crew (“Sometimes you just have to let some things go”). She even acknowledged that touring can be daunting for artists of a certain age: “Sometimes I get so tired just to have the energy to do it…but you guys made it worth it.” Tucker has also been vocal about wanting to sell some of her signature brand of tequila, donning a T-shirt advertising the product and passing dropped glasses to the women wearing “Tanya Mother Trucker” at the front fender. Acknowledging the offer made her anxious, Tucker took the Thrones straight out of the bottle, by herself.
Given that few, if any, other stagecoach acts have had a penchant for delicious libs or last-second group extras, nearly all of them could have sung a variation on an old Waylon Jennings song: “I don’t think that Tanya did it this way.”
Rhett’s top-rated group closely followed the standards of contemporary ring action, although he had two featured guests, Ashton Kutcher and Hardy, who joined him in a powerful wrapper for what is considered a signature song of contemporary country, Garth Brooks’ “Friends in Low Places”.
“This is an amazing moment for me,” said Rhett, who was coming to Stagecoach as a senior pilot for the first time. When he last came to the California desert, in 2017, after four years of his recording career, he was at the top of the list but still had to outpace Kenny Chesney. (His rise to the paddock arena in the subsequent five years isn’t the only thing that has changed: He has updated “life changes” with four children now, as opposed to the two mentioned in the dated autobiographical poems.)
A lead in her own right on the runway circuit nowadays, Maren Morris has preceded Rhett on stage with three albums (plus a worth of “middle”) to choose from for a group that has more or less distinguished her on her first run since the outbreak of the pandemic. Her crossover song “The Bones” finally salvaged, noting that she’s never had a chance to celebrate it live as No. 1, and that for many country fans, it has become almost the official love song of the closing.
When she sang “All My Favorites People Do,” there was probably hope among the audience that she’d bring out that song’s collaborator, Brothers Osborne, because they’re on the Saturday night bill. But they must have not made it to town yet, or perhaps Maurice was indulging in some favoritism within the family when the duet slot went to her singer-songwriter husband Ryan Hurd. This was the second joint appearance of the day, with Morris earlier exiting during the set of Hurd to sing the hit duo “Chasing After You”. In case there was any doubt that the heat between the two was real, Morris posted a picture of her with her husband at the festival earlier in the day, with the caption: “I see him naked.”
Today’s guest MVP who didn’t have any official place in the lineup was John Pardy. He sat with Midland for their golden hour on the main stage, singing their brand new collaboration “Longneck Way to Go,” from the group’s upcoming album “The Last Resort: Greetings From.” And perhaps after he proved he was on the block, Bardy also showed up with Rhett for their joint hit “Beer Can’t Fix”.
Best Absentee Player: Tom Petty. For reasons that are always inexplicable, Betty has remained in death, as in life, many country star’s favorite artist, as evidenced by the plethora of “free fall” covers that have been a staple of Stagecoaches in the past. but like desert sun The stars seem to have moved on to a different junkie shell for choice. Jordan Davis covered “The Last Mary Jane Dance” as part of his main play. Next was Midland, who concluded his collection with a cover of… “Mary Jane’s Last Dance.”
Other highlights of the day included an impressive rock band from Marcus King Band, whose crossover with country music is minimal, at best, but which drew a Palomino crowd ready to party; Rising black country star Berland performs an after-hours win at the Palomino Tent that pays tribute to the origins of country/hip-hop crossover with Nellie Medley; Charlie Crockett, who has become one of the most beloved characters among the country’s hottest fans by being one of the more traditionally inclined; It is featured by unusually high representations of female artists of the male-dominated genre, from mainstream star Ingrid Anders to American riser Amethyst Kyah.
Carrie Underwood will make the headlines on Saturday night, followed by Luke Combs who will close on Sunday.
The bulk of Stagecoach’s groups are broadcast live on YouTube for the first time. For a schedule of streaming shows, see the list here.