Having already performed at Coachella and Bonnaroo this year, Chris Stapleton wound up on another unexpected stage last night in Nashville: opening for Guns N’ Roses on their Not in This Lifetime Tour. He also found himself face to face with Axl Rose, who summoned Stapleton and his producer and occasional rhythm guitarist Dave Cobb after the last notes of show-closer “Paradise City” rang out.
“Axl’s assistant contacted Dave and wanted us to both come back there, and we brought our wives back and said hey. It was cool,” Stapleton tells Rolling Stone Country. “He was great. Very polite and gracious and we got to say hi for a few minutes. I’m sure he was tired and had to go get cleaned up before the buses or planes rolled out, but he was a gentleman and we had a brief conversation about music and both went on our way. It was a good night.”
Stapleton, himself a powerhouse vocalist, was most interested in Rose’s singing stamina. “I asked him how many nights in a row he can possibly scream like that, and do all the high, high rock & roll singing that he does. Because I know for myself I have limits, and how many nights in a row I can actually sing,” he says. “Then we discussed him doing stuff with AC/DC a little bit. It was conversations you don’t think you’re ever going to have.”
As for his own opening performance — arguably his most dynamic and captivating of this year — Stapleton says he just did the job of the support act, and won over some new fans in the process. “Nobody threw anything at us, so I think that was a victory,” he laughs.
Still, he couldn’t help but feel a little star-struck simply sharing the same stage as the iconic rock band. “You’re standing up there looking at all their stuff and you watch their set after and it’s just a remarkable thing,” Stapleton says. “It was one of those moments where you get to be a kid again.”
So how does Rose, who’s singing at a level not heard since the Use Your Illusion tours, achieve those wails on a regular basis?
Quips Stapleton, “He’s Axl Rose, man. He’s one of a kind.”