Jelly Roll•Chase Rice• September 1, 2023•USANA Amphitheatre
Reviewed and Photographed by Logan Fang
On September 1st, renowned country artist Jelly Roll performed for a sold-out crowd at the USANA amphitheater. After topping the Billboard’s Emerging Artist chart for a record-breaking 25 weeks, Jelly stopped by Utah as part of his 44 state Backroad Baptist tour. As I arrived at the USANA amphitheater, I was greeted by an already staggering line that snaked its way into the parking lot. Rowdy concertgoers whooped as they walked through security, prompting other people in line to do the same.
In typical country fashion, many members donned tall boots with cowboy hats to match. Other people sported Jelly Roll merch as they made their way into the amphitheater. The atmosphere was electric. Along the perimeter of the venue sat several vendors selling water, cotton candy, and what appeared to be the most popular, beer. Approaching my seat, I saw that most of the audience were well into their first drink of the night. Across from me, the line for concessions seemed to grow steadily as concertgoers sought to purchase last-minute snacks before the next set. The night featured performances by Struggle Jennings, Chase Rice, and the much-anticipated Jelly Roll.
Despite missing Struggle Jenning’s set, I was able to catch and photograph country sensation Chase Rice. Now approaching 7:45, Chase made his way onto the stage much to the excitement of the crowd. Rice, a true country music icon, took the stage with a commanding presence. Dressed in his signature denim and boots, he exuded authenticity and a deep connection to his roots.
Amidst a sea of cowboy hats and raised beers, Chase and his fellow band members immediately captivated the crowd with their electrifying stage presence. Rice wasted no time, opening with powerful vocals and gritty lyricism that you might expect of a country artist. Combining characteristic elements of country with more metal riffs made his set an interesting listen.
The General Admission bobbed along as his guitarists took the center of the stage to perform exhilarating solos. This chemistry between Chase and his fellow band members is something notable that I haven’t always seen from other performers. At several moments during his set, Chase graciously surrendered the spotlight to let his fellow members solo. In turn, his set had a little bit of everything, from thundering bass lines to rhythmic vocals. The musicianship on display was top-notch and added layers of depth to Chase’s songs, making them come alive in a way that only a live performance can achieve.
One of the standout moments of the set though was when Chase paused to share a touching, personal anecdote about his friend who previously struggled with suicide and depression. He talked about the value of companionship in difficult times and the importance of taking care of one another. This intimate story brought many audience members to their feet in applause. Hence, what truly stood out during the evening was Rice’s ability to forge a genuine connection with the audience.
Instead of playing throughout the entire set, he paused to share some of his own experiences with the audience. Despite this heart-wrenching yet uplifting story about hope and friendship, Chase eased the crowd as he brought his black labrador named Jack onto the stage. The crowd immediately melted and blew kisses towards the stage. Jack obediently sat next to Rice for the duration of his set. In between the remainder of his songs, Chase would reach down to pet Jack who didn’t seem to bother the noise.
Chase’s set made for an unforgettable evening filled with twangy guitars, heartfelt lyrics, and emotive lyricism. While I hadn’t listened to much country music prior to coming into this concert, I enjoyed the authenticity in Rice’s songs. His performance resonated with fans young and old as they all swayed along to his signature tracks. With his set now coming to a close, the crowd was left with a sense of fulfillment. Chase’s concert was a testament to the enduring power of country music to tell stories, evoke emotions, and bring people together.
Following a short break after Rice’s set, the headliner Jelly Roll was about to begin. Making my way down into the pit, I chatted with fellow audience members who were long-time fans of Jelly. They all sported his latest merch for his Backroad Baptism tour. To make time pass by faster, they chanted Jelly Roll’s name in unison as they pushed against the barricade in anticipation for his performance.
When it finally began, a series of intricate graphics flashed on the screen at the back of the stage. From the start, it was clear that Jelly Roll wasn’t your typical country artist. His fusion of country and rap demonstrated his ability to transcend genre. His style created an unforgettable evening. As the lights dimmed and the stage came to life, Jelly Roll, donning his signature trucker hat and a grin that seemed to stretch from ear to ear, kicked off the night with an energetic performance of “The Lost.”
What I admired about Jelly’s set was his undeniable charisma and connection with the crowd. Several times during the set he would lean over to interact and banter with the audience. Between songs, he shared personal stories and spoke about the inspirations behind his music. Growing up, he fell in love with country from the likes of Garth Brooks and George Strait. The music he makes today is similarly inspired by his siblings’ affinity for heavy rock and rap. As a well-rounded artist, his music thus makes for a diverse listening experience. Throughout his performance, I found myself caught off-guard as he seamlessly crossed between genres.
Meanwhile, Jelly Roll was accompanied by a talented band that made the show all the more noteworthy. The slide guitar solos were particularly fun to listen to, as they transported the audience to the heart of the country while maintaining Jelly Roll’s unique style. My favorite song of his set was his most popular track “Save Me.” The song navigates themes of pain, addiction, redemption, and hope. Jelly Roll’s gritty and soulful vocals seem to tie the song together, as his delivery is both vulnerable and intense, enabling the audience to feel the weight of the track. The piano and acoustic guitar that build throughout the song add to this somber and introspective atmosphere. Hence, “Save Me” is a relatable narrative that speaks to our desire for a better life in moments of pain and weakness.
As the night drew to a close with Jelly Roll waving goodbye to the crowd, the audience leapt to their feet in applause. His performance at USANA demonstrated his unique ability as an artist to both excel in rap and country. Redefining what I had previously thought of as “country music,” Jelly Roll’s set showcased his incredible diversity as a country artist. I’m interested to see how he pioneers in this unique genre.