Nostalgia No More: Fear & Loathing in Fading Dreams of ’90s Country
by: Thomas D. Mooney
This past Tuesday, Doug Stone played the Blue Light. Most folks, walked in with similar expectations: An acoustic rendition of the songs that Stone had hit big with in the early to mid-nineties.
While that’s technically what did happen, I’m assuming those in attendance would agree, it only technically happened if we’re loose with the definition of the phrase “acoustic rendition of songs that Stone had hit big with in the early to mid-nineties.”
There isn’t a nice way to say it so I’ll just be blunt; that show was easily one of the worst performances I’ve ever seen. It’s a shame. It’s not like I walked in wanting to come away disappointed and nitpick.
For weeks, I’d had conversations about Doug Stone coming to play The Blue Light. People were excited. Reading Facebook statuses and text messages and seeing multiple Spotify refresher courses all support those claims of excitement.
But what happened on Tuesday night starting at around 10:30 p.m. burst those bubbles and stomped those thoughts from carrying on. It went from sad to worst rather quickly.
The realization that Stone wasn’t “In a Different Light” Stone from 1991 collectively sank in for the crowd within the first couple songs.
It wasn’t going to be a show you told your friends about due to how amazing it was, but for the same reasons you tell them about that horrific car wreck you saw or any of the various strange encounters you’ve had in your life. Twilight Zone shit. Train wrecks. Innocence lost. A missing King of The Hill episode. It’s all just so surreal. Doug Stones from parallel universes somehow switched places. Maybe someone slipped a cocktail of LSD, angel dust, and pain killers to you and/or Doug Stone. A fever dream.
By this point, you’re asking yourself, “Well Thomas, what exactly was so horrible or strange about this Doug Stone Tuesday performance?” I’ll just list why instead of writing it in paragraphs to save the suspense and your anticipation.
- Doug Stone played along to an iPod.
- Doug Stone played along to an iPod.
- Doug Stone’s stories went from being a story to just drunken rambles of confusion.
- Doug Stone played the same song two times in a row because he wasn’t sure why his iPod, which he was playing along to, was on shuffle and not on the setlist he had made.
- Doug Stone played along with his iPod for the large majority of the show, but even did a handful of songs without playing his acoustic guitar. It was karaoke style.
- A girl in the crowd began to badger him to play “Why Didn’t I Think of That” and he told her that pertinence was a virtue and that somebody needed to give her some more virtue.
- During one song, he asked the crowd to sing along and instead of the crowd just singing width him, he turned down his iPod so they could really fuck the song up.
- Doug Stone played along to an iPod.
- A few people actually got on stage and posed behind him for photos mid-song.
- During “In A Different Light,” one of the few songs he played just acoustic, he vocally did the guitar solo.
- Doug Stone “flirting,” which is some of the most blatant flirting and more than anyone is comfortable with.
- Doug Stone played along to a fucking iPod.
That happened. And it’s not like any one of those can ruin a show, it’s that they all happened in a two-hour block.
To clarify, his iPod was the backing instrumental parts that he had self recorded a couple of weeks back. So he had recorded the keyboards, bass guitar, lead guitar, and drums at home and then played to them at the show. Doug Stone backed by the Doug Stones. Multiplicity. He even referred to the “backing band” while on stage by first name.
Doug Stone outdoing Steve Holt was never something I thought I’d ever imagine let alone seeing in person (Steve Holt!).
I felt bad people were actually bothering him so much. They kept going up requesting their favorite Doug Stone song or “something original,” which, he obliged by the third or fourth prod with their tequila-induced stick. In a way, it went to mob mentality. One person turns and soon it’s the collective.
And I’m not even really sure what happened or why it happened—but whatever it was—it did. I’m sure Stone is still fighting demons deep down that I would rather not speculate on. This isn’t the place or my purpose.
What’s furthermore confusing is trying to figure if this one a one time slip up shit show or a just a small anecdote in a long line of misadventures. Looking through the rabbit hole of social media just makes it that much more complex and baffling.
Searching on Instagram, you get a handful of videos of Stone playing full band and sounding reasonably fine all things considered and yet, there was still the need for a hashtag #DougStoneSuckedButAtLeastWeHadFun that can’t be dismissed. There’s not really even a mention that he played along to an iPod—which I really just can’t drop for the obvious reasons.
Are people that delusional? Is Lubbock really that harsh of a critic? Was this a one time deal or is Stone, the modern-day musician and artist, a shell of his former self?
All I know is what I saw and heard and it wasn’t good or even serviceable. It wasn’t far from karaoke. Hell, some of it was.
As someone said to me at the show, “You know George Jones was really like this at major lengths in his career.” Granted, it’s true that The Possum had his fair share of falls and defeats, but that really shouldn’t be an excuse anyone’s comfortable using and accepting. It’s an explanation, but that’s something different entirely.
Hit and miss. See him on a good day. That very well may be the right answer in all this. Bands and artists all have their off shows, but you can’t tell me it fluctuates between “#amazing” and “#DougStoneSucked.”
Through it all though, there were still glimpses. They were few and far between, but they did happen—which again, just makes you feel like he was bluffing and playing the role of washed up country singer to see just how far he could take it. You half expected him to start laughing mid song each time and say he was kidding around and that the real show was going to begin then, but that notion faded more with each fleeting second.
Example: When he did play “In A Different Light,” he played it without the use of the iPod and was just acoustic and sounded pretty well. I look at a friend and we both have that “Well, if he had done everything like this the entire night, things would have been pretty damn good,” until he ruined that thought by doing the guitar solo with his voice. Tainted.
Furthermore, it at least appeared that Stone was having fun. Which, just makes the whole experience that much more morose. You can’t help but wonder how self-aware he is of it all. Does he know he’s got a problem or just blind to the situation? Who knows. Ignorance is bliss.
I can’t help but think we’re partly the fool for setting the bar so high and becoming disappointed when reality set in. I know I walked in wanting to believe he’d sound like his heyday. After speaking with him the previous week, I was more than confident that his show was going to be can’t miss worthy. You’d really be lying to yourself if you were expecting Doug Stone to play an entire show of new songs without ever even thinking of playing “I’d Be Better Off (In a Pine Box)” and the like.
Or is it the fault of Stone for not having his ducks all in a row, his t’s crossed and i’s dotted, and all those other familiar expressions about having your shit together? Why wasn’t he more professional, composed, and on his game?
I’d go with it being more on the latter, but like I mentioned before, I don’t think anyone walked away enraged or resentful, just more sad and disappointed about the situation as a whole than anything else.
One thing is for sure though, everyone in attendance will regrettably be more apprehensive about going to shows to see acts who just strike the nostalgia cord. In a way, some artists are going to get a guilty by association tag just because they were relevant during Stone’s heyday. Maybe even worse is never truly being able to scrub this from memory. No forget-me-nots.
For some, it’ll be fine, but I know I’ll always think about this show whenever I hear a Stone song in the future. I’m not sure he’s going to be able to redeem himself for a large portion of that Tuesday crowd either.
As they say, fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice…