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Jelly Roll’s Back Roads Baptism Show at Pine Knob Is a Revival and a Party All at Once

Jelly Roll Performs at Pine Knob © John Swider

Clarkston,Michigan(August 18,2023)-Two things were made abundantly clear during Jelly Roll’s sold-out Backroad Baptism Tour Thursday night at Pine Knob Music Theatre. The genre-blending Tennessee singer is as genuine as he appears in the deeply personal songs that have been topping the country and rock charts during the past couple of years and he genuinely loves Michigan along with everything associated with it.

Proof, Jelly Roll was a walking, singing and rhyming Pure Michigan commercial throughout his hour-and-40-minute show, the 13th of his Backroad Baptism Tour 2023 and what he so proudly exclaimed to overly packed amphitheatre, the first and fastest to sell out. “It’s always like coming home when we come back here,” Jelly Roll told the crowd early in the show, nearly a year after opening for Shinedown at Pine Knob. “You don’t know how much this city means to me. How much this state means to me.”

His love for the area is deeper than most could have ever imagined. He shouted out Michigan radio, particularly Detroit’s WYCD-FM for their early-on support of hie music. He acknowledged the rap duo Twiztid for taking him on his first national tour years ago along with local legends, Insane Clown Posse for giving him his first festival billing at one of its Gathering of the Juggalos events. He spoke about hearing the Bob Seger, Kid Rock, and the “the best rapper ever” Eminem with a heavy emphasis on the early days of the Motown sound as he was growing up. Proof came as he slipped in cover of his “Old Time Rock and Roll” into his set. He also professed his dream to buy some lakeside property in northern Michigan and said he felt the marijuana grown in the state is the best in the world.

Jelly Roll also gave thanks to Eminem with an indulgent snippet of “Lose Yourself,” during a rap medley that finished with the crowd singing a cover of Biz Markie’s “Just a Friend,” full volume right back at him.It was love by the boatloads from the big man, all warmly received by the 15,000  whose exuberance was not diminished by rains that turned the lawn seats into a sliding board which, ironically, Jelly Roll and his crew experienced earlier in the day. But truth be told, his fans would have been just as enthusiastic if Jelly Roll hadn’t said a word about Michigan.

Jelly Roll Performs at Pine Knob © John Swider

With one song, “Need a Favor,” that hit No. 1 on Billboard’s country and rock charts and currently gaining a foothold in the hip hop community, Jelly Roll has become a tattooed and damaged everyday man whose impact is even wider than some of today’s biggest pop stars, even if their sales eclipse his at the moment. But in being honest about overcoming a scarred past and finding a kind of friendly median in his current belief system, Jelly Roll checks off a lot of boxes and connects on a number levels, wearing his heart on the short sleeves of his mechanic’s shirt (name-labeled “Buford”) while keeping the party raging with his own blend of rap-rock, country rap and occasional ballad mixed in for measure.

Musically, Jelly Roll and his seven-piece band got burning early — literally, with burgeoning fire pots heating up the stage and pavilion as they tore into the thundering takes on  “The Lost,” “Hate Goes On,” “Halfway to Hell” and the sizzling “Creature.” “Dead Man Walking” was vibrant and soulful and once again, had the venue singing right back at the pulpit Jelly Roll commanded.  He brought out tour mates Yelawolf for “She” and Struggle Jennings for a full on performance of “Fall in the Fall,” both of whom were crucial to Jelly Roll’s early career and offered warm praise from the stage. In what has become a highlight moment for the cellphone picture takers, he poured vodka down the throat of one of his guitarist’s during one of many searing guitar solos during “Bottle and Mary Jane” which was a heaping slice of heavy rock psychedelia. Country chart-topper “Son of a Sinner,” was a sonic highlight of the evening and a precursor for Jelly Roll’s wife Bunnie DeFord appearance onstage as he sang the love song”Kill a Man.”

Jelly Roll Performs at Pine Knob © John Swider

Jelly Roll also dipped into his country music past as he tore through a cover Brantley Gilbert’s “Son of the Dirty South,” on which he guests on the original. And as at all “family gatherings”go, the audience sang along word for word to Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Simple Man,” which Jelly Roll dedicated first to Shinedown and as the song wound down, to the band itself and it’s late guitarist Gary Rossington.

“I don’t believe this is a concert,” he explained in one of his several pulpit-worthy moments throughout the night. “It’s not a show. I believe this is family reunion of people healing together.” He also made an impassioned plea for recreational marijuana — which was full evident onstage and off Thursday — to be legalized in all 50 states and to be used in place of opioids.

This night and this project would be more than a benediction.Jelly Roll was enjoying the night as much as anybody sitting in front of him. “You took the most average, uneducated, white trash fat-ass in America and you made him a star,” he gushed late in the evening.He delivered a prayer for the best of who they all are: works in progress, figuring life out. It’s not easy, but it’s what they have, and with his life soundtrack, Jelly Roll’s offering songs they can believe in along the way.

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Jelly Roll:

Pine Knob Amphitheatre: