Orville Peck, the gay country singer who only performs wearing a fringe-covered mask, had a huge breakout in 2019 with his debut album Pony. The Polaris Music Prize nominated album was lauded by fans and critics alike. Pony was quickly followed by the EP Show Pony in 2020, and then the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown gripped the world. Now two years later, Orville Peck has emerged with his sophomore album Bronco, released to widespread acclaim last month via Columbia Records. Bronco sees Peck combine a bolder more mature sound with deeply intimate and sincere songwriting, to create an album of songs that have an almost cinematic scope. With Bronco freshly out of the stall, Orville Peck has saddled up and hit the trail for a run of North American tour dates. We caught the show this past Wednesday at The Ritz in Raleigh NC.
Having been blown away by Orville Peck’s performance at the Shaky Knees Music Fest this past October, we were really looking forward to seeing him headline in a slightly more intimate setting, and we were not alone. Fans shook off the mid-week doldrums and packed the Ritz with boots, cowboy hats, masks, fringe, sequins and just about everything in-between.
The evening kicked off with a spirited performance from Nashville country rockers, Teddy and the Rough Riders. Much like Orville Peck, Teddy and the Rough Riders defied expectations. They played a gritty set of songs that seamlessly blended country with psychedelic, and good old-fashioned foot-stomping, southern rock. It was a sound that put a modern spin on a mixture of classic genres that definitely resonated with the growing and wildly appreciative crowd.
The lights dropped and the room erupted as Orville Peck and his band took the stage. After briefly introducing himself to the electrified crowd, Peck and his band opened the show with “Daytona Sand,” the opening track from Bronco. The overall set focused on the new songs from Bronco, but there was a good mix of songs from his earlier releases as well, that provided an anchor of familiarity, including “Turn to Hate,” “Winds Change,” and “Dead Of Night.” While he has surrounded himself with talented musicians who help drive the sonic “gallop” of his songs, Orville Peck remained a mesmerizing focus of attention on stage. His trademark mask had the fringe woven into two long braids that were reminiscent of Willie Nelson’s hair, and allowed his newly growing beard to show through. But what really stood out, beyond the flamboyant western-wear and braided mask, was Peck’s distinctive vocals that have been likened to a combination of Roy Orbison and Chris Isaak. The new songs from Bronco, including “The Curse of the Blackened Eye,” “C’mon Baby, Cry,” and “Outta Time,” were solid and well received. But two of the stand-out songs of the evening were “All I can Say,” and the song that Peck described as his favorite from Bronco, the emotional “Hexie Mountains.”
Through the ups and downs, whether boot stomping or quietly introspective, the crowd stayed right there with Peck, fully engaged and cheering louder and louder after each new song, culminating in the set ending run through new album namesake “Bronco.” The room was still echoing with loud applause and calls for an “encore” as Peck returned to give the people what they wanted. He started at the piano for “Let Me Drown,” before sending everyone home happy with “Take You Back (The Iron Hoof Cattle Call).”
While Orville Peck provided a striking image on stage, a masked rider cloaked in flamboyant western wear, it was his music and distinctive voice that truly stood out and made the show one not to be missed.