Jelly Roll Overwhelmed by a Love He Created in Nashville [Concert Review]
Jelly Roll's tour-ending Nashville concert had pyrotechnics, a second stage and a few special guests. OK, the "Son of a Sinner" singer had 11 top-tier special guests, each more excited to see him thriving on the city's biggest stage than the last.
The Friday night (Dec. 9) concert included hits from multiple genres (including his No. 1 rock song and Top 5 country radio smash) and covers from country, classic rock and hip-hop icons. There was a lot of hugging, a couple of steamy kisses between him and his wife Bunnie, at least one fight and the general sense that this was a life-changing event for the singer (real name Jason DeFord) and his family.
That's not what fans who sold out Bridgestone Arena will remember in one, two or five years, however.
More impressive than how he unfurled his rolodex or weaved between genres so effortlessly was the genuine warmth in the building. You've never seen such a diverse crowd at a country show. Go see Alan Jackson, Morgan Wallen, Carrie Underwood or Luke Bryan and you'll find a quasi-monolith of fans wearing similar brands, with similar jewelry unique to that demographic. That's no insult, but proof that each artist is building their community.
With Jelly Roll, a man in an Ariat shirt could be seen standing between two bikers with face and neck tattoos, with a kid just behind them.
They all loved it.
Mainstream country fans are just learning of Jelly Roll, but it was clear that he'd have sold out the venue without the support of country radio when the DJ opening the show spun through early "hits" including "Whiskey, Weed and Waffle House." First, when have you ever heard an opening act play songs from the main act before he or she took the stage? Not many artists have that kind of catalog depth.
Jelly Roll writes songs like he's running out of time, and half the crowd knew every word. The other half pick and choose the moments to shout along, but it's here the South Nashville native showed that he's a savvy entertainer as well as a uniquely personal songwriter.
Chris Young appeared to sing “Famous Friends” with Jelly Roll, five songs into the two- hour set. Sam Hunt came later to sing “Body Like a Back Road.” Then, on a small stage at the back of the venue, Riley Green and Ernest appeared to sing their hits before half of Shinedown joined Jelly for a version of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Simple Man.” He referred to a short medley as the karaoke portion of the show, but the reality is, the familiarity ensured that everyone felt his warm embrace, especially those who rolled the dice on tickets.
Every single guest was a personal friend of Jelly Roll's. He gave Young a long embrace and called Struggle Jennings (two songs, after Young) his best friend. He's long talked about going way back with Ernest, and revealed that Green's song helped his family through the loss of his father.
Longtime fans likely appreciated seeing Tech N9ne and Krizz Kaliko on stage with Jelly Roll to sing their song "Creature," but Bailee Ann DeFord's Bridgestone debut was more unlikely. She's 14, but had written a song born out of watching her mother battle addiction (it's the subject of a new song called "She"). Together, they tore through "Tears Could Talk" with the teen giving a performance worthy of a mic drop.
At times the crowd's response overwhelmed Jelly Roll, which of course brought about even more applause and hollers. This was a big night for him and anyone in country music who's felt like a misfit. Draw a line here that starts with Brantley Gilbert, Hunt and Wallen, three men who have embraced hip-hop in country as much as anyone. Ernest blew the doors open for his friend Jelly Roll, and now he's doing the same for artists like Jennings. There's a misfit revolution beginning in Music City, and it feels amazing to be a part of it.
Credit Parmalee for stirring the crowd up with a 40-minute opening set that featured their pop-friendly, chart-topping hits amid reminders that they started as a rock band. The crowd responded enthusiastically to the four men, singing along with early hits including "Carolina," new hits that included "Just the Way" and covers including "Drops of Jupiter" by Train. A feral energy in the building remained positive for three solid hours. It's difficult to remember a night quite like this.
Jelly Roll Set List, Nashville, Tenn.
1. “The Hate Goes On”
3. “Same A—hole”
4. “Son of the Dirty South”
5. “Famous Friends” (Chris Young/Kane Brown Song) With Chris Young
6. “Cowboys” With Struggle Jennings
7. “Fall in the Fall” With Struggle Jennings
8. “Smoking Section”
9. “Over You”
10. Three-Song Medley, Including “House of the Rising Sun” and “Body Like a Back Road With Sam Hunt
11. “Bottle and Mary Jane”
12. “I Wish Grandpas Never Died” (Riley Green Song) With Riley Green
13. “Flower Shops” (Ernest/Morgan Wallen Song) With Ernest
14. “Son of a Sinner” With Ernest
15. “Creature” With Tech N9ne and Krizz Kaliko
16. “Dead Man Walking”
18. “Tears Could Talk” With Bailee Ann DeFord (Jelly Roll’s Daughter)
19. “Simple Man” Lynyrd Skynyrd Cover With Zach Myers and Brent Smith of Shinedown
20. “I Need You”
21. “I Need a Favor” With Fisk Jubilee Singers
22. “Save Me”