Midland held court at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium on Sunday night, delivering a headlining set full of hits like “Drinkin’ Problem” and “Burn Out,” new songs off their upcoming second album and a slew of bar-band covers. That the gig also fell on Cinco de Mayo only made it that much more of a party. Here are five reasons you should have been there.
1. Midland’s New Material
If the new songs that Midland debuted on Sunday night are any indication, the trio is doubling down on making Eagles country-rock cool again. The tracks “Fast Hearts” and “Cheating Song” both highlighted Mark Wystrach, Cameron Duddy and Jess Carson’s harmonies, while “14 Years,” an oldie in the group’s catalog, had a dusty desert vibe. And “21st Century Honky-Tonk Band” exhibited the swagger that Midland aren’t afraid to own. The biggest reaction to the new material came for “Mr. Lonely,” the trio’s latest single, which nearly turned the auditorium into a peepshow when Duddy split his pants Lenny Kravitz style (fortunately he was wearing underwear). Rushing offstage, he returned seemingly naked behind his bass guitar, before sprinting to put on a pair of jeans.
2. The Mariachi
Cinco de Mayo may be an excuse to get drunk in the U.S. — see the tourists in Pancho Villa cosplay on Broadway — but Midland made an admirable attempt at introducing its fans to the musical heritage of Mexico by enlisting a local mariachi as opening act. Mariachi los Potrillos, a group of players ranging in age from 12 to 52, performed traditionals and even a spirited take on “La Bamba,” before 18-year-old member Gustavo Flores decimated the Ryman with the passionate Spanish-sung love song “El Aventurero” that showed off the pageantry and drama of the genre. During a time when some talk cavalierly about closing the Southern border, Mariachi los Potrillos were living proof of all we’d be giving up.
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3. Brooks & Dunn and Chris Isaak Make Cameos
Midlanderos who spotted Chris Isaak getting out of his car at the venue may have put two-and-two together that there would be a special guest at Sunday night’s gig — especially since the band has been known to cover Isaak’s “Wicked Game.” A rhinestoned Isaak did in fact materialize at show’s end to give Midland a run for their money in the glitz department and sing with Wystrach on the woozy 1989 ballad. Earlier on, Brooks & Dunn popped up to re-create “Boot Scootin’ Boogie,” their collab with Midland on the new B&D Reboot album, a surprise appearance that transformed the Ryman into a dance hall.
4. The Big Voice of Desure
Opening act Desure just released his debut EP on Friday, but the singer — full name: Josh Desure — has a long history with Midland. He used to tour manage the band before they persuaded him to show off his monster voice in his own music, which he did onstage at the Ryman dressed lavishly in a pink double-breasted suit and backed by a shit-hot band. “Kick Rocks” mixed soul with alt-rock, the drug-sick “Coming Down” was an earnest plea for forgiveness and the ballad “Los Angeles” conveyed both Desure’s affection and frustration with his hometown. The Instagram moment, though, was a left-field cover of Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain” that found the singer in full lounge lizard mode.
5. Midland Play the Jukebox
Midland reinforced their reputation as a walking jukebox with a roster of cover songs including Bruce Springsteen’s “Tougher Than the Rest” and “Atlantic City,” Roy Orbison’s “You Got It,” Jerry Reed’s “Eastbound and Down” and Stealers Wheel’s “Stuck in the Middle With You.” While some could have been cut (R.E.M.’s “Man on the Moon” was superfluous), the classic tunes not only fleshed out a headlining set by a band that only has one full album to its credit, but underscored the breadth of the group’s influences.