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Tyler Childers Performs a Dynamic Show at SPAC

By Published On: July 9th, 2024

Last Wednesday, we once again ventured to Saratoga Performing Arts Center for what was one of my most highly anticipated concerts of the summer: Tyler Childers. 

I know, I know, another country concert. I’m sure by now you’ve gathered that I’m a pretty big country music fan, and yes, my 16-year-old self would physically shudder to hear me say that, but it is indeed true. 

For those of you who aren’t country music fans, have no fear, we’ll be bringing it back to my roots in another few weeks, as I have some rock concerts lined up. 

Kentucky roots 

But back to the subject at hand: I was so excited for this concert. I remember discovering Tyler Childers about two years ago with the live version of his song “Charleston Girl.” I was immediately hooked and tore through the rest of his music. 

Childers is from eastern Kentucky and his music is a blend of country, bluegrass, and folk. His album Purgatory, released in 2017, was considered one of the best albums of the year by multiple publications, including NPR and Rolling Stone. 

Much of his music is influenced by his childhood in Kentucky. His father was a coal miner, so the occupation and its effects on people are one of the biggest subjects of his music. He also has been known to focus on life in Appalachia in general and the ways in which it intersects with the bigger issues of racism, poverty, and others. 

Childers has also been open about his struggles with addiction and has described himself as a “recovering alcoholic” who had “drunk and drugged himself around the world playing music for the better part of eleven years.” 

He pushes the boundaries of what country music can be and who it’s for. The lead single “In Your Love” from his most recent album, Rustin’ in the Rain, is about and features a same-sex couple in the music video. 

The show was sold out and therefore, completely packed. We got there early enough to score a good spot in the lawn where we were fortunate enough to be able to see the huge screen as well as the stage. Prior to Childers coming on stage, he had two openers. Wayne Graham played rock infused country for about 30 minutes, and S. G. Goodman performed roots-y music for about 45 minutes.

Tyler takes the stage

Childers entered the stage at about nine o’clock and opened with his unreleased love ballad, “Her and the Banks.” It was a bit of a slow start, but I think that was intentional to build everyone’s interest and ensure that we were all paying attention. At his other shows on this tour, he’s frequently been opening with “Way of the Triune God,” which is a much more upbeat, gospel-esque tune that would’ve had everyone immediately singing and dancing. While slower, I think opening with this track was his way of building anticipation for the remainder of the show. 

He played a few slower tracks before launching into “Country Squire,” which got everyone dancing around, well as much as we could in a completely packed lawn. He performed “Bus Route,” from the Country Squire album and “I Swear (to God),” from his 2017 album Purgatory before performing fan-favorite “Shake the Frost.” 

He and his group then brought the energy back up with a performance of the country-rock track “Rustin’ in the Rain,” from the album of the same name. He followed that with one of his most popular songs, “All Your’n,” which had the entire crowd echoing the words back to him. 

They played a few more tracks as a group, but then the band took a break from the stage and Childers was left by himself in the center of the stage with just an acoustic guitar. He performed acoustic versions of “Lady May,” “Nose on the Grindstone” – which takes inspiration from his father’s life in coal mining – and “Follow You to Virgie.” 

After, he brought the band back out on stage and properly introduced them all before launching into “In Your Love,” off of his most recent album. They then performed a cover of Hank Williams’ “Old Country Church,” followed by “Can I Take My Hounds to Heaven?” and “Whitehouse Road.” 

He ended the show with “Way of the Triune God” – which he brought S. G. Goodman out for – followed by “House Fire,” and finally, “Universal Sound.” 

He and his band played for two hours without any fancy or boisterous behavior. The only thing on display was pure talent. Childers’ voice sounds just as incredible live and in-person as it does on the recordings, and he dispersed some humor and commentary throughout the show. At one point, he lamented on where he’d like to be sitting if he were to ever see a show at SPAC. He had the crowd laughing and cheering each time he spoke, which is noteworthy, as many artists are incredibly talented, but fall short when it comes to audience interaction.

Listen to the setlist from the show here