When Charlie Worsham took the stage on Saturday night at Nashville’s 3rd and Lindsley, a good chunk of the audience jumped to its feet. And Worsham met their enthusiasm with a heaping dose of his own as he launched into the opening cut of his debut record, “Could It Be.” Throughout the tune, Worsham scanned the room, acknowledging people with upraised cameras or beers. His appreciation for the sold-out crowd was palpable as they sang the entire closing chorus without him. Worsham joked that he started the set “with my big hit. It’s all downhill from here.” But it really wasn’t.
Worsham proceeded to work through songs from Rubberband, including “Someone Like Me” and “Tools of the Trade,” intermixed with covers like Freddie King’s bluesy “Goin’ Down.” While Worsham filled pretty much every number with a searing guitar solo or duel with Alex Gallagher, he also made room for John Henry Trinko to cut loose on the B3 during “Li’l Liza Jane.” Only five songs in, and the band was obviously having a jamming good time up there. Even coming down from that high for “You Can’t Break What’s Broken” was very much worth the effort.
Switching over to banjo, Worsham displayed an even wider breadth and depth of skill. Unfortunately, the banjo section of the set — which included a spin around Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” — was better in concept than execution. Something about it just didn’t work. It was certainly fun, though, to hear Worsham blaze through “Shuckin’ the Corn,” the first song he ever played at the Grand Ole Opry, and the wistful “Young to See,” which he said has become something of an anthem for him.
Because potential special guests Ashley Monroe and Sheryl Crow were both out of town, Worsham invited Angaleena Presley and Lucie Silvas to join him for a couple of songs each. In between their appearances, Worsham and the boys tore it up with “Trouble Is” which featured a truly epic guitar solo. While his instrumental chops are ever evident, Worsham showcased what a solid songwriter he is by playing “Mississippi in July” and “How I Learned to Pray” back-to-back, the latter of which he said they don’t get to play for other artists’ crowds. (He’s looking at you, Brad Paisley.)
Next up was an impressive Beatles’ medley that started with a countrified “Lady Madonna” and wound its way through bits of “Come Together,” “Get Back,” “Let It Be,” “Hey Jude,” “Helter Skelter,” and more before it was all said and done. The piece proved that much further that Worsham is a genre-bender and blender, in the best sense. After playing for over 90 minutes, Worsham got back to his own songs and closed his set with a rousing version of “Want Me Too” and a rip-roaring take on “Rubberband.” The handsome upstart has genuine talent and genuine charm, so the big tent of country music could do far worse as young ambassadors go. And the thrilled crowd on this Nashville Saturday night couldn’t agree more.