Life in KC

The Big Show: Sturgill Simpson at the Midland

Sturgill Simpson
Sturgill Simpson

Tuesday, Nov. 1, at the Arvest Bank Theatre at the Midland

Placing hallucinatory lyrics about “reptile aliens made of light” and ponderous musings about existential angst in traditional country settings is an unlikely formula for achieving fame and fortune.

Yet Sturgill Simpson, a determined contrarian and rugged individualist born in Kentucky, is a bona fide star. Tuesday’s concert by the iconoclastic artist is sold out.

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Simpson has released three progressively stranger albums since 2013. Rather than being dismissed as the ravings of a madman, his work is adored by critics and listeners who have been desperately seeking country music with emotional and intellectual depth.

Yet Simpson isn’t merely an expedient alternative to the dominance of bro country artists like Luke Bryan. It takes a lot of talent to make weirdness palatable. Simpson’s soulful voice evokes Waylon Jennings and even his most outlandish wordplay is complemented by bewitching melodies.

On “Keep It Between the Lines,” a funky selection on the 2016 album “A Sailor’s Guide to Earth,” Simpson dispenses a torrent of wisdom to his son that includes an advisory that “the only word you’ll ever need to know in life is ‘why’.”

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He also questions authority on “Call to Arms,” a manic screed about the military and media in which he laments that “we’re all too busy looking down at our phone.” If Simpson’s rendition of the provocative song is as unhinged as the studio version on Tuesday, the members of the audience will be too mesmerized to even consider fiddling with their phones.

8 p.m. 816-283-9921. Tickets to the sold-out concert were $30 in advance.