A couple of years ago, I was afraid I may never have the opportunity to see a Turnpike Troubadours show.
The band’s status was uncertain amidst their hiatus and no one really knew what to expect. Thankfully, it turns out I had no reason to worry.
This past Saturday, I was finally able to see the Turnpike Troubadours play for the first time at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado.
And after all of the build up and suspense, it still exceeded expectations… by FAR.
By now everyone should be familiar with the Turnpike Troubadours, their hiatus that lasted well over two years, and their recent return to the stage. Following the wiping of their social media pages and the announcement that the band got back together, they made their first show announcement on November 30, 2021… a show at Red Rocks on May 14, 2022.
Throughout the hiatus a few of my buddies and I always said we would be at their first show if they ever came back, no matter where it takes place. So the greatest band of all time making their return at one of the coolest venues in the world? We had to get tickets.
On December 2, we got on our computers to join the waiting room for the presale, and were eventually able to snag 10 tickets at only $68 for a big group of our friends to make it to the show. I honestly don’t know how we got so lucky. Sorry to everyone who wasn’t able to get tickets, but at least we used them all and didn’t try to resell them for $1,000+.
Then we bought our flights, booked an Airbnb, and had to wait over six months until May 14 finally came. To make the waiting even more difficult, as everyone knows now, the Red Rocks show turned out to not actually be their first one back. Since they announced this concert, they have announced a ton of other shows all across the country.
Several of these shows took place before they arrived in Colorado, including their first two shows on April 8th and 9th at the legendary Cain’s Ballroom in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Located on the corner of Easton & Main, it was the perfect venue for their return. They followed these shows with a three night stint at Billy Bob’s in Fort Worth, Texas, a show at John T. Floore Country Store in Helotes, Texas, and a show at White Oak Music Hall in Houston.
Each of these shows were packed sell outs as fans across the country have gathered to welcome Turnpike back.
After these shows, it was finally time for their back-to-back sold out shows at Red Rocks. The night before the concert, I was able to catch my first Billy Strings show, too. He absolutely killed it, and is without a doubt the most talented guitarist I have ever seen live. But as a result, I was able to scout out the scene, since it was my first time at Red Rocks, so I knew what would need to be done for the Turnpike show.
On the day of the show, we got there two hours before doors opened and waited in line. Obviously, we were not the only ones with this idea, and by the time we arrived, the energy and excitement in line and at the tailgates were already palpable.
Once we got inside, we were able to get up to the front of general admission, spend way too much on merch, and kick back with a few requisite $13 concert beers while we waited for the show to start. If you weren’t able to get tickets, here’s how it went down.
Reckless Kelly came on around 7:30, while it was still light outside. Not only did they kill their opening set, but being able to see the mountain views that Red Rocks is known for during their set was a cool thing. Their 10 song set included some of their hits, newer songs, and a couple of covers. The highlight of their set, in my opinion, was when lead singer Willy Braun’s father, Muzzie Braun, joined the band on stage, beer in hand, to help sing “Seven Nights in Eire.”
They closed their set with a cover of Tom Petty’s “Runnin’ Down A Dream,” and it got the few people in the crowd that weren’t already standing out of their seats to sing along. Willy also mentioned that while this was his first time playing at Red Rocks, he had been there once before. It was for a Tom Petty show with his brothers, so that made this cover even more special.
They set the tone for a spectacular show early, though, and if I wasn’t so excited for Turnpike to take the stage, I could have watched them play all night.. If you aren’t already familiar with Reckless Kelly, you should be. Go check them out.
I think it was during their set, too, that the guy who had been behind us in line (I think) proposed to his girlfriend a few rows back of us. So congrats to that guy.
The second opener, Shovels & Rope, came on after a little while and brought the energy as well. A married folk-rock duo, their chemistry on stage was obvious and their set was impressive. Multi-instrumentalists, they each played just about every instrument they had on stage with them, and they kept the crowd going as the anticipation for Turnpike’s set intensified.
After a break that seemed to take forever following the Shovels & Rope set, the amphitheater went dark, the crowd quieted down, and as soon as Gabe Pearson started setting the beat on the drums, the crowd went crazy. Then the lights came on, a few guitars were strummed, and Evan Felker started singing:
“Well she was born in the morning, late October San Antone…”
along with the backing vocals of 9,500 of his biggest fans screaming the lyrics back to him. It was a heavy moment.
Shivers went down spines and eyes watered as the show began. Looking around, everyone in the crowd, strangers, friends, and families were hugging, high-fiving, and singing as loud as they could as the band continued with “Every Girl” and into “7 & 7.”
Evan Felker’s smile was contagious as everyone was glad to see him healthy, happy, and performing again, and the Turnpike Troubadours went on to perform a magical 20 song set to perfection. RC kept the band on track playing bass and taking over the lead vocals on their longtime concert staple “Drunk, High, Loud.”
Kyle Nix made his case for being the best fiddler in the world, playing seamlessly through solos and behind Felker’s vocals. Ryan Engleman did the same, shredding riffs and solos, garnering a few air guitars from those in the stands who couldn’t help themselves. Gabe Pearson made sure the crowd danced to anything with a good backbeat, kicking off the show and holding down the drums in true Turnpike fashion. And Hank Early did it all, whether it be steel guitar or accordion, to tie everything together,
It was poetry in motion. It was the greatest band in the world playing at one of the greatest venues in the world. And with the anticipation and circumstances that contributed to the electric crowd, it was the best concert I have ever been to. Hopefully I can catch plenty more Turnpike shows before it’s all said and done, but until the next one, this one will be fresh in my mind.
Hell, it always will be. I’ll never forget it.
Setlist: Turnpike Troubadours at Red Rocks Amphitheater 5/14/22
“Every Girl” (Diamonds & Gasoline)
“7 & 7” (Diamonds & Gasoline)
“Morgan Street” (Goodbye Normal Street)
“Shreveport” (Diamonds & Gasoline)
“Good Lord Lorrie” (Goodbye Normal Street)
“Wrecked” (Goodbye Normal Street)
“The Winding Stair Mountain Blues” (A Long Way from Your Heart)
“The Bird Hunters” (Turnpike Troubadours)
“Something to Hold on To” (A Long Way from Your Heart)
“Gin, Smoke, Lies” (Goodbye Normal Street)
“The Housefire” (A Long Way from Your Heart)
“Kansas City Southern” (Diamonds & Gasoline)
“Whole Damn Town” (Diamonds & Gasoline)
“Pay No Rent” (A Long Way from Your Heart)
“Tornado Warning” (A Long Way from Your Heart)
“Diamonds & Gasoline” (Diamonds & Gasoline) – Acoustic with Evan Felker and Hank Early
“Drunk, High, Loud” – RC lead vocals
“Long Hot Summer Day” (Diamonds & Gasoline)
“1968” (Diamonds & Gasoline)
“Long Drive Home” (Turnpike Troubadours)
We didn’t get to hear the band’s new tune “Cat In The Rain,” but they played it the next night to another sold out crowd. Evan even confirmed that the new music rumors were true and another record is on the way.
And yes, Red Rocks lives up to the hype. Every music fan should see a show there at some point. But since it’s far away for so many people, at least go see the Turnpike Troubadours at one of their shows this year. It won’t disappoint.
You may even see Peyton Manning there, apparently.