Sturgill Simpson Unleashes 'Sound & Fury' Onto Los Angeles

Semi Song
Sturgill Simpson

"If you’re wearing a cowboy hat and you heard the record and came anyway, thank you very much,” said Sturgill Simpson on Sunday night (Sept. 29), as he took to the stage at the Troubadour in West Hollywood. It was met with chuckles, but the Kentucky singer knows he’s lost a few day one fans with his fourth album Sound & Fury

Country music’s loss is the wider world’s gain, because at this tiny underplay — the first in a week-long set of shows benefiting the Special Forces Foundation, who provide assistance to veterans and their families — Simpson let loose this pulsating beast of rock, blues, psychedelia, and even new-wave for the first time, playing the album with his four-piece band, front to back.

Despite his self-deprecating banter at the top of the set, Simpson is returning to the stage with guns and guitars blazing, as evidenced early by the brooding, psych-blues of “Remember to Breathe,” which found the singer-songwriter wrestling with the strains of fame while “having one-way conversations with the darkness in my mind.”

There were shades of Jimmy Page in the juddering main riff of “Best Clockmaker on Mars,” and as the song descended into a blitzkrieg of noise, Simpson led his band deep into Led Zeppelin territory, bringing out gasps and whoops from the crowd. In a comparatively lighter moment, the disco-funk rhythms of “A Good Look” found the usually stock-still Simpson cutting loose across the stage. The singer-songwriter seemed burned out and distant during the backend of his lengthy A Sailor’s Guide to Earth tour, but it’s safe to say the time off has done him good.

During a quick respite from re-creating the album’s noise and confusion, Simpson took a minute to sum up his current musical motives. “I think it’s the responsibility of an artist to make music that represents the world they live in,” he opined. "And the world is fucked up.” Simpson best encapsulated that sentiment — and his attempts to put it into action — during "Fastest Horse in Town.” The Sound & Fury closer is the best thing Simpson has ever done, and saw him conjuring a drone-rock cacophony that sounded like a hole being opened in the space time continuum.

The second hour stood as a potted history of Simpson’s career to date, taking in selected sounds from his three previous albums, including a funky rendition of “Some Days” (from 2013’s High Top Mountain), a cover of When In Rome’s “I Promise” (originally included on 2014’s Metamodern Sounds in Country Music), and a recalibration of “Call to Arms.” The original closed out his Grammy-winning A Sailor’s Guide To Earth with a bang, but the way Simpson and his band have it sounding now is something closer to an earthquake. Snarling like a feral hybrid of the Stooges, AC/DC, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and even Sonic Youth, the song also featured yet another outrageous solo from Simpson, who is fast approaching guitar hero status. 

Before Simpson called time, he made sure to remind the crowd of the veterans he seeks to honor. “They’re making incomprehensible sacrifices so that we can be here partying right now,” he states. And what a party it is. If Simpson keeps up this kind of form while touring Sound & Fury over the next year, it’s hard to image any other rock ’n’ roll show achieving anything like the same visceral power.


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