History was made last weekend when Morgan Wallen became the first artist to both perform and cancel a show at the Vaught-Hemingway Stadium with his “One Night At A Time” world tour.
The 29-year-old Tennessee native and country music superstar was scheduled to perform two shows in Oxford, one on Saturday, April 22, and a second the following night. After a successful set on Saturday, those with tickets for Sunday night’s performance were ready for the show.
Openers Zimmerman, ERNEST and HARDY performed their sets as expected but when Wallen was supposed to take the stage, the following message flashed on the big screens in the stadium:
“Ladies and gentlemen, unfortunately Morgan has lost his voice and is unable to perform tonight – therefore tonight’s show has been canceled. Please make your way safely to the stadium exits. Refunds for tonight’s event will be available at point of purchase beginning tomorrow.”
Wallen posted a message on his Instagram account.
“After last night’s (Saturday’s) show I started losing my voice so I spent the day resting up, talking to my doctor and working through my vocal exercises trying to get better,” Wallen said. “I really thought I’d be able to take the stage and it kills me to deliver this so close to showtime, but my voice is shot and I am unable to sing … I am so sorry, I promise you guys I tried everything I could.”
The announcement was met with a flood of disappointment. University of Mississippi student Cole Brooks and his wife were Sunday attendees.
“Me and my wife were in the restroom and she got a call from her friend and said (to me), ‘Hey they just canceled everything,’” Brooks said. “People were very upset, people were angry. People said, ‘No way he lost his voice. They would have told us this way before.’”
Brooks said they spent $1,000 for two pit tickets through a secondhand seller and are expected to be transferred the money at some point in the future.
Despite the disappointment, Brooks is keeping a gracious attitude towards the situation.
“It sucks, it’s rough, but at the same time that’s his job and everybody’s called out of work before. You’ve got to be understanding with it,” Brooks said.
While nothing is substantiated, many attendees speculated that Wallen did not lose his voice, but rather lost to the infamous Oxford party scene.
“I heard he was blacked out and just couldn’t make it,” Todd Raredon, a student at UM. “He should have been honest about it if that’s true, maybe it’s not.”
Ole Miss Athletics gave the following statement about the weekend’s events and cancellation:
“We are deferring comment to Morgan’s social media post from last night at this time.”
The Daily Mississippian reached out to Wallen’s publicist for further comments about the weekend’s events and cancellation, but as of the publishing of this article have received no comment.
Despite the Sunday performance ending in tumult, Wallen’s Saturday performance was considered by many to be a success.
Wallen first gained recognition as a contestant on the popular TV show “The Voice.” Since then, he has released three albums and garnered eight No. 1 singles on country music radio as well as honors such as performing at the Grand Ole Opry.
This tour comes on the heels of his new 36-song album, “One Thing At A Time,” which includes hit songs “Last Night” and “You Proof.”
Many people attending Saturday’s show, like University of Mississippi students Emmy Namorato, Haley Reed and Bella DellaMaggiore, were initially surprised to learn that Wallen was coming to Oxford but bought tickets as soon as possible.
“All of my friends at home go to school in New York and the Carolinas, and when I told them that Morgan was coming to our football stadium, they were in shock,” said Namarato. “(All of us here) bought presale.”
Their tickets, which were in the pit, cost around $670 each.
Malik Porter, who also attends the University of Mississippi, expected a high-energy show with lots of singing along from the crowd.
“I’m really excited to hear ‘Your Bartender,’ ‘This Bar’ and ‘Cowgirl.’” Porter said.
Jennifer Fines, a North Mississippi resident, was among the first in line. Having attended one of Wallen’s concerts before, she shared what people should expect.
“It is an act. It’s a great show, enough to come back again and again and do it again.”
While Wallen’s performances have been highly anticipated, many have been critical of his presence due to the singer’s past controversies.
Most notably, Wallen was caught on tape using a racial slur. The incident happened in January 2021, and the footage was released the following month. Shortly after the incident, Wallen released an apology video along with statements to various news outlets.
Attendees of Saturday’s concert shared their thoughts on Wallen’s actions.
“We don’t think about it at all,” Fines said. “You know, he went to rehab for 30 days after, and nobody thinks about that. We are definitely not judging.”
Mississippi State student Grace Goodloe shared her perspective as an African American attendee of the concert.
“What he did doesn’t go unseen or unheard. We all know what happened,” Goodloe said. “But at the end of the day, I firmly believe that a person is a person that makes mistakes. I think everybody deserves forgiveness in that area, and he was thoroughly genuine when he apologized about it. We don’t forget, but we forgive, and that’s the biggest thing.”
As an African American student attending the university, Porter said that although he is a fan of Wallen and shares Goodloe’s perspective on the situation, bringing an artist with a controversial past like Wallen does say something about the university.
“This is not the first time something like this has happened, and (the university) is showing that (it) kind of doesn’t care,” Porter said. “(To do better Ole Miss could) stand on our principles as a school or what (it) says we stand for as a school.”
Despite the controversy, thousands of people attended the concert. Wallen and his openers put on an undeniably good Saturday night performance.
Wearing an Ole Miss Football shirt, 23-year-old country artist Bailey Zimmerman kicked things off. While all of his songs kept the crowd engaged, his No. 1 hit “Rock and a Hard Place” was the obvious crowd favorite, with voices across the stadium singing along.
Up next was Nashville native ERNEST, whose full name is Ernest Keith Smith. He has written songs for popular country artists like Wallen, Florida Georgia Line and Thomas Rhett. ERNEST started his set by detailing a connection he has to the university.
“I went to high school with Ethan Flatt who played quarterback here, and I had an Ole Miss jersey when I was a kid,” he said.
ERNEST went on to play some of his more popular hits, including a solo rendition of “Flower Shops,” which he usually sings with Wallen, and his rendition of “Son of a Sinner,” a song that he produced for fellow country artist Jelly Roll.
After ERNEST was HARDY. A native of Philadelphia, Miss., HARDY is known for blending country music with rock and metal. His intro song, “JACK,” started with a Nirvana-like guitar riff and immediately got the crowd singing along. He went on to sing hits like “Boots” and, near the end of the set, held up an American flag that garnered screams and cheers from the crowd.
Nearly an hour after HARDY’s set was over, Wallen took the stage.
“This is the first time they’ve had a concert in this building, so thank you for making that happen,” Wallen said. “I can feel the love already. I really appreciate that.”
Throughout his performance, the crowd was enamored with Wallen’s presence and, like Porter expected, singing along.
Wallen sang a mix of the old and new with high-energy songs like “Up Down,” “You Proof” and “Whiskey Glasses.” His show had slower moments, too, with songs like “Dying Man” and “Thought You Should Know.”
Wallen also came back on for an encore, during which he sang three songs, including his latest hit, “Last Night.”
Attendee Dustin Lee Geudry of Louisiana said he enjoyed all of the artists and gave a summative comment about the show.
“I think everyone had an absolutely fantastic time here tonight,” Geudry said.