Review — Tyler Childers Howls at the Moon at Red Rocks

On Wednesday, Kentucky-bred country singer Tyler Childers came to Red Rocks to tell some stories beneath a nearly full moon. Throughout the show, moonshine dripped down the rocks into each person in the crowd’s heart and danced with old ghosts as Childers told stories and howled out into the night.

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Tyler Childers

The night began with impressive sets from openers Abby Hamilton and S.G. Goodman. Both of their sets were filled with energy and humor as each artist moved through a range of songs spanning from more traditional country ballads to high-energy southern rock tunes reminiscent of bands like Drive-By Truckers. Both artists are absolutely worth keeping an eye on.

As the opening sets ended, a mostly seated crowd suddenly grew restless. A DJ named Charlie Brown Superstar played a mix of country songs and pop hits with house beats pulsing underneath in between sets. The crowd began to stand, chug beers, dance as the anticipation for Childers’ set grew.

Tyler Childers

After a somewhat long wait, the house lights went down and Childers walked onto stage humbly, bereft of theatrics. The massive crowd roared thunderously, the rocks trembling under the sheer weight of the sound. Childers picked up his acoustic and sat down in the center of the stage, an old TV next to him flashing pictures of memories past, tall grass now growing out of the side of the stage. The crowd fell silent as Childers thanked them for coming out and began strumming the haunting early chords to “Nose On the Grindstone.”

The song set an excellent precedent for the night. It’s a cautionary tale of addiction and the struggle to keep on the straight and narrow in the face of temptation. It was an early demonstration of Childers’ intensity. He was quick with a joke in between songs but when he’s singing, his eyes go hard like coal begging to ignite, his mouth contorts into a picture of anguish as he wails his laments and triumphs that pierce each that hear’s very soul.

Tyler Childers

Childers remained alone on stage for the first eight songs of his set. It demonstrated how captivating one man and a guitar can be when stripped of any fanfare with only talent and powerful storytelling remaining. He moved through favorites such as “Shake the Frost” and “Lady May” before standing, putting the acoustic down and welcoming his band, The Food Stamps.

The crowd once again ignited into a frenzy, howling and whooping up at the moon now hanging high and bright over the rocks. The band wasted no time before launching into “The Way of the Triune God.” The song’s a favorite from his 2022 album Can I Take My Hounds to Heaven? The album is interesting in that each song on it is played in three different versions: “Hallelujah,” “Jubilee” and “Joyful Noise.” The version they played was the “Hallelujah” version, noticeable because of its lack of horns — which are found on the “Jubilee” versions — and was played straight as opposed to “Joyful Noise’s” more dubby interpretations.

The band played spiritedly, each of the six members shining in the light. They moved through songs such as “Gemini” and “Her and the Bank” as well as the Hank Williams classic, “Old Country Church.” They eventually arrived at “Can I Take My Hounds to Heaven?” In the middle, Childers took the time to introduce The Food Stamps, making up nicknames and elaborate backstories for each member. Craig Burletic was on bass, Chase Lewis (arguably the MVP of the night) on keys, Rodney Elkins on drums, James Barker playing the steel and electric guitars, “The Professor” Jesse Wells on electric guitar as well as fiddle and banjo and CJ Cain played acoustic guitar. It’s important to note that each member hails from Kentucky, just like Childers, a testament to Childers’ dedication to his home state.

This was followed by “Whitehouse Road,” Childers’ first real hit and an absolute barnstormer of a tune. The song is responsible for many’s early fandom and that was evident in the crowd which transformed into a chorus echoing each word. The song’s about hard living on the road and the freedom that such a life elicits, a life that many dream about but never get the chance to experience.

This was followed by Childers’ most recent hit, “In Your Love.” It’s a beautiful testament to the idea of “Love is love,” a sentiment not found in much country music. Many mainstream country outlets refer to Tyler Childers as “Americana” rather than “country.” Childers has spoken out against this designation in the past, saying it’s a blanket term applied to country artists who don’t quite fit into the mainstream narrative. He has asserted that he believes himself to be making country music that handles topics that are largely ignored or downright shunned in the mainstream. “In Your Love” is an excellent example of how Childers can transcend such labels and still attract a massive audience.

The set rolled on gracefully as the band played powerful, bright renditions of “Country Squire,” “All Your’n” and “House Fire.” It eventually began to wane as songs like “Rustin’ in the Rain” — the titular track from his most recent album — and “Trudy” signaled the show’s end. The set ended with “Heart You’ve Been Tendin’,” Tyler thanked the crowd, told them he’d see them tomorrow, and left the audience to wander into the night with hearts overflowing with moonshine.

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