The venues are bigger and the stakes are higher in 2018 for Tyler Childers, the 26-year-old Kentucky-born country singer whose breakthrough record, Purgatory, drew widespread praise and attention late last year.
Displaying a cool confidence, Childers was all business from the start of his sold-out show at the Wonder Ballroom on Thursday, April 19. He promised songs old and new, and his five-piece band delivered all night. The poker-faced singer even allowed a smile here and there as the crowd responded with loud approval each time the band sprinkled in one of many memorable songs from the Sturgill Simpson-produced Purgatory.
With twin Telecasters at stage left morphing into lead combinations of fiddle, steel and guitar, Childers—his long, wavy red hair pulled back in a familiar ponytail, his gritty tenor in very good form—sweetly charmed the packed house through a 90-minute set and for the most part let the songs do the talking.
Following a lively version of Shel Silverstein’s “I Got Stoned And I Missed It” that ramped up the party vibe, the band tore through tracks from Purgatory—"I Swear (To God),” “Feathered Indians," “Whitehouse Road” and the slow-burning “Honky Tonk Flame.” Childers wrapped with a three-song set of solo acoustic songs highlighted by “Lady May,” which quickly became a singalong for the long won-over crowd.
The weekday sellout at Wonder Ballroom marked another step up for Childers, who last summer played to a much smaller but similarly enthusiastic crowd at the Doug Fir Lounge. With a showcase at this coming weekend’s Stagecoach Festival in Indio, Calif., and a couple of shows with Margo Price in Nashville in coming weeks, the year is shaping up to be a big one for Tyler Childers—and he appears to be ready for the moment. —Phil Favorite