LIVE: Cody Johnson @ Upstate Concert Hall, Clifton Park 11/7/2019

Clifton Park is a long way from Sebastapol, Texas but the chill in the air didn’t stop 1300 or so country music fans from filling Upstate Concert Hall on Thursday night for Sebastapol’s own Cody Johnson.  Johnson spent a decade selling out venues all across the south as an independent artist.  A true star of the “red dirt” sub-genre of country music, “CoJo” recently sold out all 73,009 seats at the NRG Stadium at RodeoHouston. Seeing him in a strip mall in chilly Clifton Park seemed like something special to everyone in attendance.  

The smaller size of the audience didn’t seem to matter to Johnson and his “Rockin CJB” band. They took the stage right after 9PM and hit the ground running with fan favorite ballad “With You I Am.”  They hit the gas and didn’t slow down for most of the night.  Full disclosure, I am a die hard George Strait, Travis Tritt, Merle Haggard fan.  Much of the music on country radio does not appeal to me.  Cody Johnson is cut from the same cloth as the King of Country Music. It was refreshing to see young country music fans eating up some real country music.  He is proof that three chords and the truth is a real thing.  Great songs are undeniable and will always find an audience.  Cody has more in common with contemporaries like Chris Stapleton and Luke Combs than artists like Dan + Shay. 

The setlist leaned heavily on Johnson’s newest release, “Ain’t Nothin To It.” He sprinkled in songs from most of his independent releases as well. Toward the end of the night, he told the crowd that his grandfather recently passed away.  Cody was given his grandfather’s vintage, 1940’s Gibson J45.  Johnson’s grandmother asked him to play a song on the instrument.  At a loss for what to play, he described the guitar almost telling him what to play.  The result? “Live Forever” by Texas legend Joe Ely. Johnson dedicated the song to his grandfather and proceeded to absolutely floor everyone listening.  He followed up with a stripped down version of the Brooks & Dunn classic “Red Dirt Road.”  Not finished, he told the crowd that he could play one chord that was more country than “Old Town Road.”  When Johnson strummed the A#dim7 everyone knew he was right. That single chord sets “Friend In Low Places” in motion and sent the crowd into the night’s biggest sing along. The last song of the night was Johnson’s first hit on major country radio, “On My Way To You.”  This is going to be a show that folks talk about for years to come. Johnson is the real deal. Check him out. Thank me later.

With You I Am, Wild As You, Ride With Me, Dance Her Home, Diamond in My Pocket, Dear Rodeo, Me and My Kind, Y’all People, Nothin On You, Honky Tonk Mood, Long Haired Country Boy, Doubt Me Now, Fenceposts, Never Go Home, Live Forever (Joe Ely Cover)

16. Red Dirt Road (Brooks & Dunn Cover), Friends in Low Places (Garth Brooks Cover), On My Way To You

Photo Gallery by Claude Sawyer

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