Wheeler Walker Jr. brought his Ol’ Wheeler tour to St. Paul last night, performing to a sold-out crowd of country music fans of all kinds. Wheeler casts himself as the anti-country star, often referencing his self-proclaimed war against Nashville and everything the city stands for. Many of the songs off his newest album, also named Ol’ Wheeler, take direct shots at some of country’s biggest stars, which is part of the driving force behind his sudden surge of popularity.
Arriving moments before doors opened, I walked along a line of very dedicated fans eagerly waiting to be let in the doors. After the initial rush of concert goers subsided, I got my things together and headed into the venue. I took a seat at the bar and started talking to a couple that was sitting next to me, both wearing Wheeler Walker Jr. shirts and excitedly talking about what songs they hoped to hear tonight. I asked them if this was their first time seeing him in concert, to which they said they had seen him when he performed in St. Paul a year ago, also at the Turf Club.
After very graciously buying me a drink, I chatted with the couple for a few more minutes about a variety of topics, and then took my place at the side of the stage just in time for the opener, Kasey Tyndall, to take the stage. Kasey, who is originally from North Carolina, but now resides in Nashville, takes the stage and immediately assumes total control of the room with her sweet southern charm and, to the enjoyment of the mostly-male crowd, her beauty.
Tyndall’s career took off in 2014 when she won a contest through a radio station to sing a duet with Keith Urban. Soon after that happened, she signed her first booking deal with WME, and shortly after that, a publishing deal with Sony ATV. She describes herself as quiet and contained in person, but she is nothing of the sort on-stage while she is belting out classic anthems such as “You Shook Me All Night Long” and “You Never Even Called Me By My Name.”
Tyndall sprinkled in a few of her originals in between the covers, and the crowd received them very well. After performing her song Who I Ain’t she wrapped up her set by performing her most recent single, which will be featured on her upcoming EP, Everything Is Texas. After her exit from the stage, her band launched into a breakdown of Enter Sandman by Metallica, which was obviously their 30-second window to showcase their talents. It was received well by the crowd but felt sort of out of place and a strange way to wrap up her set. All in all, though, I fully expect Kasey Tyndall to quickly rise up the ranks of country music, and firmly believe we will be seeing that name a lot in the future.
After warming up the crowd, Wheeler Walker Jr. took the stage to finish us off. Wheeler has dubbed himself a “Pussy King” so it was only fitting that he started the show off with his song which shares the same name. He quickly launched into the next song, and then brought out Kasey for a duet of a song on his newest album, Fuckin’ Around, which he originally sang with someone with a similar name, Kacey Walker. After her departure from the stage, Wheeler takes the opportunity to give praise to the crowd, referencing a show he recently played in Philadelphia, which did not go well, prompting the crowd to start chanting “Fuck Philly” as Wheeler and his band began their next song.
About halfway through the set, a man in the crowd held up his phone for Wheeler to see, and judging from his reaction, Wheeler was not a fan of what he was being shown. The phone apparently had a video of a man, uh, pleasuring himself, which for some reason the fan thought the country star would like to see. Wheeler quickly took notice of what was happening and told the fan he needed to walk to the back of the room to think about what he had done. “I want your nose in the corner, and a 20-page apology letter for showing me that video in the middle of my damn set!” he exclaimed to the crowd, as well as bursting into an impromptu song condemning the fan for the decisions he had made. “This next song… well, this next song is just about the opposite of what just happened.” he said as the band launched into the song Pictures On My Phone, which is a song about illicit pictures & videos of women on his cell phone.
Wheeler powered through the rest of his set, playing crowd favorites from his debut album Better Off Beatin’ Off and Fuck You Bitch, and the closing song from his most recent album, which he told the crowd he wrote as an ode to the city of Nashville, Poon. After closing out his set and leaving the stage, the band returned to the stage to perform four more songs, most notable of which was his song Eatin’ PussyKickin’ Ass which the crowd emphatically sang along with them, clearly their favorite song of the night.
Wheeler wrapped the show up, and told the audience that “As long as you don’t act like those assholes in Philly, I’ll come out to the merch booth after the show and sign some shit for you!” as well as making sure everyone in attendance knew that he and his band would be coming back to St. Paul as soon as possible, and then exited the stage. His band then launched into a similar breakdown to the one Kasey’s band played, however, there was no Metallica-cover to be heard and this one was generally well received. The show then came to a close, the house lights came on, and people began to shuffle out onto the street.
I briefly reconnected with the couple I met before the show started as I was leaving, and they both had wide smiles all the way across their face, and couldn’t stop talking about how much fun they had. As a relative newbie to Wheeler Walker Jr.’s career, I asked them if this show lived up to their expectations, and how it compared to his show a year ago, a question the husband (at this point slightly more intoxicated than I remember) simply answered, “Wheeler-Fucking-Walker man!” a response I can only take as a positive reaction, and yet another satisfied supporter.