Morgan Wallen made a triumphant return to Music City’s premiere performance venue on Wednesday night (March 16), kicking off a three-night stand at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena. It was the resurgent superstar’s first headlining full-band show in Nashville in over a year, dating back to a well-documented controversy, and the capacity crowd welcomed him back with open arms.
Taking the stage just days after winning the 2022 ACM award for Album of the Year (for Dangerous: The Double Album), Wallen stuck to a script of powerful hit songs and humble appreciation for the crowd, letting the tunes do most of the talking. Presiding over fans with an almost pastoral tranquility (his dad is a preacher back in East Tennessee), his dynamic, 26-song set was not flashy and never aggressive in the way many chest-thumping country stars are — but it created thrills and chills all the same.
Addressing the crowd after his his first two songs, Wallen had already risen dramatically from beneath the stage, quietly singing “Sand In My Boots” like a mullet-sporting phoenix. And when his gravelly drawl finally welcomed the roaring, sold-out audience, he called the moment one to remember.
“I really appreciate you being here tonight,” the hit maker said. “I got a lot of people I care about here, a lot of people who believed in me for a long time are in the building tonight… this is really special to me.”
Along with many standouts from Dangerous — “Silverado for Sale,” “7 Summers,” “More Than My Hometown” and “Country A$$ Shit,” for starters — Wallen also dug deep into his back catalog for the setlist of crowd pleasers. And frequently, it was a handful of surprise guests who helped bring those modern classics to life.
Rising star Jimmie Allen appeared alongside Wallen for his breakout hit, “The Way I Talk,” sending out a silent statement of brotherhood that all those in attendance seemed to understand. And later on, legendary Brooks & Dunn vocalist Ronnie Dunn followed suit — with Wallen putting his one-of-a-kind voice to good use on the smooth crooning “Talkin’ Tennessee,” and B&D’s 1992 smash, “Neon Moon.”
By the time Wallen reached his encore — an arena-wide sing along on the mega hit, “Whiskey Glasses” — it was clear the star was back on top and ready to hold his head high. The Nashville fanbase seemed all too ready for it, and with two more shows to go before the tour moves on, it’s a good bet there are more big-name guests and deafening cheers to come.