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The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

Mitchell Tenpenny rocks the Ryman Auditorium with country hits

Mitchell Tenpenny brought a hometown feel and fiery spirit to the iconic Ryman stage, leaving the crowd cheering from beginning to end.
Sara West
Mitchell Tenpenny performs at the Ryman Auditorium, as photographed on Feb. 3, 2023. (Hustler Multimedia/Sara West)

Preparing for a concert at the Ryman, I expected to find good music and a historic stage, but I was not prepared for Mitchell Tenpenny’s magnetic performance. The intoxicating energy overtook the already crowded, sold-out space. 

Tyler Braden proved to be the perfect opener, as the crowd responded to his covers and singles with high enthusiasm. As it was his first appearance at the Ryman, he was all in with every song he performed — from Needtobreathe covers to his new singles, “Neon Green” and “Try Losing One.” His raspy voice combined with staggering guitar riffs set the tone for a great night. He even had his own special guest, Nate Smith. Both artists sang “Whiskey On You,” recorded by Smith in 2022. With a mix of rock-like instrumentals and more intimate keyboard renditions, Braden brought the energy up for a perfect kickstart to the night.

Full of anticipation, the crowd roared when the lights turned red, and Mitchell Tenpenny and his band stood with their backs turned on the elevated stage. The opening track, “Good Place,” blasted through the speakers with Tenpenny’s strong voice dominating the sound. The entire concert featured powerful guitar moments that I found to be the most electrifying part of the show. Rafe Tenpenny, Mitchell’s brother, played “Stand By Me,” singing and harmonizing the song in an unexpected highlight to start off the concert. Tenpenny’s bright smile during the duration of his performance gave the feeling that he couldn’t believe he was getting such a response from the crowd. Every time the audience began to belt the songs, his energy bounced off of it, and the music accelerated from good to amazing. 

Tenpenny wasted no time in releasing a new single — “What’s It Gonna Take” — in the new year. The song features an upbeat melody that kept up with the pace of the show. To my surprise, he sang a rendition of “Iris” by the Goo Goo Dolls, and the auditorium got exceptionally louder when the classic song blasted through the room. The show concluded with two encores, giving each band member a spotlight moment. Tenpenny introduced Jeff Cibulka, the guitarist, and Rafe Tenpenny, the bassist, both of whom had impressive performances throughout the night.

Toward the middle of the night, Tenpenny invited Alana Springsteen, known for the country hit “New Number,” to perform a slower ballad duet. Continuing with the special guests, there was an unexpected addition with Tenpenny’s wife, Meghan Patrick, making a surprise appearance. She is a singer-songwriter in her own right, so it was cute to see the newlyweds perform together on stage. They met at a Nashville bar, so it was quite a full-circle moment for them to perform together back in Music City. 

Besides surprises, Tenpenny received one of his own when his record label came on stage to present the country star with a Platinum plaque for his hit single, “Truth About You.” He has reached over 1.5 billion streams, and he was humble and appreciative of his fans for listening to his music. 

Throughout the show, Tenpenny had small crowd interactions — like taking pictures or fist-bumping with fans — and the overall feel of the concert was vibrant and energetic. It was easy to see that Tenpenny was a regular guy living his dream, and his red solo cup and jeans fit the casual atmosphere of the auditorium. 

Even though the Ryman does not have as elaborate sets and theatrical elements like other big venues, the raw musical sound and magical lighting felt more intimate. The sound rattled in your chest, making you feel connected to the music surrounding you. Tenpenny’s voice enveloped the auditorium, leaving everyone in a daze of excitement and adrenaline that only the Ryman could create. Overall, the concert exemplified what country music is all about. With fun songs, a passionate atmosphere and Tenpenny proving he is an artist to look out for. 

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About the Contributors
Chloe Pryor
Chloe Pryor, Staff Writer and Photographer
Chloe Pryor (‘26) is from Fort Smith, Ark., and is double majoring in psychology and communications studies. When not writing for The Hustler, you can fund her reading, drawing or running late for class. You can reach her at [email protected].
Sara West
Sara West, Deputy Photography Editor
Sara West ('25) is majoring in psychology in the College of Arts and Science and human and organizational development in Peabody College. Sara loves going to concerts, thrifting and exploring new places. She was previously Deputy Photography Director and hopes to enter the music industry after graduating.  She can be reached at [email protected].
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