Sturgill Simpson Plays 'Brace for Impact' at Bonnaroo 2018 - Rolling Stone
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Watch Sturgill Simpson’s Furious ‘Brace for Impact’ at Bonnaroo 2018

On his 40th birthday, avant-garde country-rocker delivers an intense performance of the ‘Sailor’s Guide to Earth’ track

Sturgill Simpson turned 40 years old last Friday, and he celebrated the milestone in style, heading to Bonnaroo for a set on the festival’s biggest stage. Sandwiched between performances by Paramore and Muse, Simpson’s gig offered 75 minutes of raw, roadhouse country-rock, with the frontman abandoning sheet cake and other birthday traditions in favor of scorched-earth guitar shredding and extended jamming. He even delivered a characteristically quick birthday speech midway through the set, peering into the audience of sunburnt superfans and baked millennials while declaring, “My mid-life crisis is fucking dope!”

A man of relatively few words, Simpson let the music itself do most of the talking. He pulled double-duty as his band’s singer and lead guitarist, backed by a slimmed-down trio whose members – including a cooly expressionless Bobby Emmett, who played organ from behind a pair of oversized aviators – reimagined the densely layered songs from Simpson’s latest release, A Sailor’s Guide to Earth, as lean, mean blasts of amplified twang.

The set peaked with an extended version of “Brace for Impact (Live a Little),” stretched to more than twice its original running time. Simpson’s Telecaster led the charge. He kicks things off with more than two minutes of pinch harmonics and roots-rock riffage before launching into the first verse. Later, he takes an extended solo for a whopping eight minutes, leading the band through rhythmic changes and dynamic shifts along the way. It’s his party, and he’ll shred if he wants to. 

In This Article: Sturgill Simpson


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