It’s rare, but on occasion I go to concerts to see the opening act instead of the headliner. Out of respect to the artists, I typically stick around for both shows, reserving the right to leave early to beat the traffic if the headliner doesn’t live up to expectations.
I didn’t leave early last Friday, when the terrific Morgan Wade opened for Ryan Hurd at The Fillmore in Silver Spring, Md. Both signed to Sony Nashville, Wade released my favorite debut album of 2021 (Reckless) and Hurd is a rising star thanks to his songwriting, solo work, and recent duet with wife Maren Morris.
Wade, who added six tracks to a deluxe edition of her Sadler Vaden-produced album last month, has opened for a diverse group of artists (Jason Isbell, Lucero, Ashley McBryde) straddling the rock and country sides of Americana. Reckless talks about her struggles with addiction, the joys and dark sides of getting high, and the reality of getting sober. It’s an album you can groove to, and one that you can’t shake. And she’s only 27.
The deluxe edition now includes her pre-album single “The Night,” the should-be hit “Run,” and a cover of Elvis Presley’s “Suspicious Minds,” all three of which she performed during her 45-minute set on Friday. As a lifelong Presley fan, I was especially waiting for the cover, which Wade has turned into a song about sexual obsession, complimented in the middle by a snippet of AC/DC’s “You Shook Me (All Night Long).” The cover, which came toward the end of the set, definitely was something you had to see.
Other highlights of Wade’s set were the opening trio of “Reckless,” the devastating “Last Cigarette,” and “Don’t Cry.” She followed that with “When the Dirt All Settles,” another deluxe edition track with a pop edge that is a lot of fun, while still talking about getting away from those things that bring you down.
“Run,” another song about escape — “What if we run/what if we get away/there ain’t a single reason for us to stay” —should be her breakthrough. It’s a beautiful track with an irresistible hook, and she more than does it justice live.
After Wade finished her set with “Wilder Days,” the song that — along with “The Night” — brought her to the attention of the major labels, it was time for a break and a tonal shift, one that was both entertaining and slightly disconcerting. https://www.morganwademusic.com
Hurd’s style is not my go-to, but I enjoyed his 18-song set, especially “June, July, August,” “Hell is an Island,” and “To a T,” which was his first hit in 2018. You also could see the beauty in his solo rendition of “Chasing After You,” his chart-topping duet released last fall with Morris.
He brings an easygoing, party vibe to his shows, landing in that country-pop-hip hop space that blends Jimmy Buffett with vocal stylings remininscent of Mat Kearney and Andy Grammer. He has several drinking songs — “Love in a Bar,” “What Are You Drinking” and “Tab With My Name on It” — that are popular but striking in contrast to Wade’s writing about her ongoing battle with recovery and escape.
I’m not sure many in the audience noticed the tonal shift in quite the same way. The two artists, who have toured together quite a bit and are scheduled to be on the road again in May, were supported in equal measure by the crowd of cheering fans.
And after two years of COVID, we’re all in the mood to cheer. https://www.ryanhurd.com