WORDS BY DAVID TAYLOR AND PHOTOS BY ROBERT A CHADWICK | Go Venue Magazine
On Friday, August 25, around 15,000 packed into CHI Health Center in Omaha, Nebraska to see country music’s biggest musician to come out in the last couple of years, Jelly Roll. I have never been to a country music show at this venue, but this one was a game-changer. Stand-up comedian Josh Adam Meyers hosted the concert, interacting with the crowd and having his own backing band play a cover song before each act. It was quite entertaining, just keeping the live music going. It was a great night to experience live music.
Struggle Jennings from Nashville, TN was the opener of the concert. He is Jelly Roll’s best friend, which made sense as to why he was on the bill. He sounded as if Busta Rhymes played country music. The musicianship was out in full force, with a solid backing band behind him, including an incredible guitarist and a slide guitarist/violinist. He even did a cover of “Blue Suede Shoes”. Struggle talked about overcoming his struggles, including gaining full custody of his children after being incarcerated. It was a good start to the night.
Grammy Award-winning artist Ashley McBryde from Arkansas was the direct support of the night. I was quite impressed with her performance. She had such an amazing voice, and I love a woman that plays the guitar. My favorite song they performed was “Brenda Put Your Bra On”, a very quirky catchy tune. She won a Grammy earlier this year and has performed in Omaha before, with her last time in 2022 at the Admiral. This was another group of talented musicians, with her band, including two guitarists. When I was doing research on her, I saw that she collaborated with Halestorm on a new version of Halestorm’s “Terrible Things”, which was cool to hear. Be sure to check out her upcoming album, The Devil I Know, in a couple of weeks. Overall, love to see a female musician open up for the biggest country act right now.
And finally, it was time for Jelly Roll. When you live inside your own bubble, away from country music like me, respectably, you don’t really understand the magnitude a country music artist has on country music fans. I’ve never been to a country music concert of this size before. Originally a hip-hop artist, I’ve heard of Jelly Roll as he toured with one of my favorite bands, Shinedown, last year, crossing over into rock radio. Now, with his latest album, Whitsitt Chapel, he has become a country music superstar. 15,000 people packed the sold-out arena, singing the songs, chanting “Jelly!”. It was like he was going to become the next mayor of Omaha. This guy popped off only a couple of years ago, and he’s selling out places left and right. He said a couple of times during his set that he “makes real music for people that have real problems” and that is the key. Artificial intelligence has become scary regarding what art is, and it is damn impossible to recreate what Jelly Roll makes, as he has his own unique life experience. And no one wants to hear that, either. Jelly Roll is as real as it could get. Someone held up a sign saying Jelly Roll’s music saved them after their dad passed away a couple of years ago. That’s a real artist right there. He performs from the soul, and you can tell that from the audience. I love that he got to visit the Douglas County Criminal Justice Center to speak to 50 people who are in the process of being out in the world. I hope everyone left his concert inspired and wanting to do better in life. I wish Jelly Roll his career the best as it goes up and up.