It’s been another great weekend, maybe the best yet, for Country 2 Country in Glasgow. There’s a number of eye catching details but I want to, if I may borrow from Brett Eldredge, take you the long way around.
Let’s start with some of those eye catching details. More people wanted to come, and more turned up to our two Another Country conversations even though we didn’t offer any of the headline artists. Secondly, and crucially, more people (by some distance) came to C2C itself. In short on Friday and Saturday nights the audience would have filled the Armadillo three times over with half a hall again locked out. That’s success by anyone’s standards. Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly for me, the Hydro was a perfect fit. It sounded great….at times (whisper it) much better than the Armadillo sounded on some nights in the old days). All the people moaning at me about the venue had either decided not to return or accepted the fact that a bigger venue works. It allows more in, gives them easy access to come in and out without annoying people and, on a number of occasions became an intimate room for some very special acoustic moments.
Maybe’s it’s because I’d spent some time with Drake White on Friday afternoon or perhaps it was just his raw energy but he took the arena by storm and set the tone for the weekend. Drake was impossible to resist; gospel, country, southern rock…southern soul…you get your whole record collection in forty five minutes of Drake time. I took the minutes after his set to walk around the Hydro. Having listened to the Wandering Hearts a few times on record I was probably the most surprised to find I was stopped in my tracks to hear them live. Where the record had left me a little cold, live and acoustic they played a perfect set and caught the imagination of the C2C audience. The Spotlight stage was to become one of the more interesting spaces over the weekend.
I was surprised to see Ashley McBryde looking a little downcast after her set. To me it had been a perfect big stage introduction. You’ll hear a brilliant conversation (well her bits) with Ashley on next week’s programme and I suggest that, after a little reflection, she’ll agree with most of the audience and me that she and her band played a blinder.
There’s some truth in those who feel Lyle Lovett‘s billing was a little odd. But that’s only because country music has taken such a mainstream/pop turn. I’m not sure Lyle was ever going to convince a C2C audience that he was essential listening, but reader he was. It was a beautifully curated performance with some of the weekend’s finest moments coming during North Dakota, If I Had a Boat and his finale of Townes Van Zandt’s White Freightliner. If that’s not country, then we all need to think again.
Chris Stapleton: First the positives. He’s got a great voice, he had the best sounding electric guitars of the weekend….oh how warm and crunchy those pick ups and valve amps sounded…and boy can he play that thing. He’s also of course, got some great songs and the odd well chosen cover. I loved Kevin Welch’s Millionaire, an old favourite. But…..and it’s a reasonably big but, Chris will have to do a little more than sing his songs to his wife if he’s to bring people in to the party. Personally I’d be happy staying home and listening to the records…and eventually that’s what I opted for.
Chase Rice is always going to get credit from me for his intro music (a well known song of mine). Like Drake on the Friday he got the party started and wasn’t going to let a 5:20 starting time dampen any enthusiasm. He made a lot of friends. This night also brought another beautiful surprise from Caroline Jones. Her gorgeous acoustic set was a real bonus for me. I was hoping for something special from Cam. The last time she’d been here she played a brilliant set and established herself with the C2C audience. This year she went to the next level. Cam is a significant artist who had the chutzpah to take the Hydro into her confidence, tell her stories and speak a few home truths (“women enjoy sex as much as men do”). Unlike some of the acts over the weekend Cam’s festival of lights at the end of Burning House was a spontaneous ovation, wholly deserved. Logan Mize worked the crowd well but may come to regret asking for an audience volunteer. Young Aidan (his impromptu harmonica holder) clearly upstaged him.
I’ll be honest. I’d not paid much attention to Brett Eldredge before he was announced for this year’s event. Preparing to meet him I’d listened to a good chunk of his music and I still didn’t know if I’d be buying all his albums. It was then a lovely to surprise to witness him putting in one of the performances of the weekend. Two beautiful moments for me were Brett’s acoustic versions of The Long Way and Mean To Me. Flawless and moving in turn. Brett, you nailed it bro’.
It was a long day and I knew the audience would love Keith Urban. I fear I didn’t see enough of his show to pass any comment but everyone seemed very happy the next day.
Carly Pearce …….Carly will, I’m pretty certain, become a very big star. But again the Spotlight stage brought some real discoveries. The Hydro just loved Ingrid Andress. I think we are going to hear so much more of her. She’s a writer and a half and has a great voice. Watch this space.
Hunter Hayes wowed C2C a couple of years back. He’s an amazing talent. A great instrumentalist and a gifted vocalist. His music could easily sit quite comfortably on a pop/alternative festival line up. At times dense and (for me) a little over busy there’s no question that there’s a lot of clever stuff going on. Country wise when he opened up about his own insecurities of performance he won a lot of friends. Country is nothing if not truthful and Hunter is one of the good guys who gives everything on stage. No one was more delighted than he when the crowd joined in on Wanted. A lovely moment.
So the stage was set for the weekend’s very popular closing act. Lady Antebellum and C2C are a perfect fit. They played it exactly right. Two well placed new songs from the forthcoming album felt like a nice balance in a set stacked with familiar hits. Again they did that Hydro into the Bluebird thing with a beautifully arranged acoustic segment. Everyone just loved American Honey and Heartbreak‘s a modern classic is it not?
Over the next two Tuesdays you can hear interviews from backstage (this week) and our Pacific Quay Conversations (next week.) There will be plenty of music too. Join me if you can from five past nine over the next couple of weeks. It’s all on BBC Radio Scotland FM.