“It won’t be like this for long” – Darius Rucker
Day 2 was crazy! The day has been packed full of top quality entertainment, and that’s before you even get to the main Arena! I started my day off (well after I’d done a survey for CMA) at The Roadhouse stage where Raintown kicked things off nicely. This was the first time I’d seen them perform since their little baby girl was born and I can tell you they still have as much energy as they did before. After that I rushed off to try and catch some of the CMA industry talk in All Bar One. It’s great that C2C puts those on, it was headed up by Paul Sexton who is a great guy, very knowledgeable and to his left was Kristian Bush and to his right was concert promoter Ali Harnell, label head Jon Loba and agent Rob Beckham. It was nice to see the room was full of people wanting to learn more about the business side of things as well. From there I went back to Roadhouse to catch The Wandering Hearts, who blew me away with their harmonies, they’re a very tight group and I love the song they closed with, I think it’s called Devil in Disguise. Catherine McGrath played a good set from what I heard, Una Healy drew a big crowd and I heard great things about Sarah Darling as well. In between all this I managed to squeeze in a few interviews so I will share them with you in the coming days and weeks after C2C.
Now going on to the main arena, this was the night I was looking forward to the least. I knew of each of the artists but I didn’t know any of their repertoire particularly well but I was still excited to see them especially Reba. So the verdict coming out? I got it completely wrong… it was fantastic and all the acts have convinced me that I need to pay more attention to them and buy their CDs. It began with Dan and Shay, they worked really hard throughout their set to get the audience excited and involved. They achieved this in the cover they did of You Give Love A Bad Name. The pair were very energetic and this rubbed off onto the audience. There was a really nice moment where they played their hit single From the Ground Up and the audience held up their phone lights, I think it touched the boys and they threw in an extra song, Obsessed as they were “obsessed” with London and being here. Dan kept saying how Shay has the best voice in Country music and it was sweet to see the closeness of the band and the belief and respect they have in and for each other.
On the yamaha stage we saw Bailey Bryan, the 18 year old has a unique voice I thought it’s quite high pitched. She was good, had a few good songs although I think she needs to work just a little on her stage presence but I think there may have been a few sound issues going on there. Definitely someone to keep an eye open for in the future.
Now I’ve heard mixed reviews about Hunter Hayes performance tonight so I’m probably going to be unpopular because I thought he was great. I’ve seen him previously when he came over and toured on his own and I actually thought he was better tonight. When he first came out I think he was nervous but sometimes it makes it more real and you see what it means to an artist to perform at that particular event and venue. He opened his set with I Want Crazy, again this got the crowd moving. I like how so far all of the acts have really been encouraging of their fellow stars and musicians, in a World where we like to turn everything into a competition it’s great to see these guys getting up on stage with each other and having a good time. Hunter was no different as he welcomed Charlie Worsham up to play a bit of guitar with him. That’s another thing I’m noticing at this festival, they have a lot of acts who not only write good songs and sing but they’re all great guitarists, Hunter could really play! The highlight of his set for me though was the new song he played, I think it was called Tell Me, it was raw and his vocals were excellent when he sang that.
Another new face came onto the yamaha stage after Hunter. Seth Ennis who is apparently supporting Little Big Town on their next tour. He played three songs and it was the last one that really caught my attention, Woke Up In Nashville, prior to this he gave a nice shout out to Mac McAnally, who he said was a great inspiration to him.
I’d heard a lot of good things about Darius Rucker and though I knew the odd song or two I hadn’t gotten round to really listening to his past work. He opened with a song off his last record Lighter Up, this was a party starter and it became clear to me that many had come just for Darius… a few songs later it became clear why they’d come for Darius! Southern State of Mind was one of my favourites on the night, as was It Won’t Be like This For Long, it was just honest and there was real emotion in his performance. I think what got the audience going though was his cover of Friends in Low Places, everyone around me was up on their feet dancing. He too introduced his band and showed his appreciation for their level of musicianship and he stood back and let his banjo player and slide guitarist play freely. Wagon Wheel was another that got the audience on their feet, singing at the top of their voice and dancing along. Darius looked like he was enjoying the atmosphere and he grinned most of the way through. To conclude his set he played a touching tribute to Prince by playing Purple Rain and once again those lights were raised in the air like stars. It was an emotional end to what was a superb set. The audience were on their feet applauding and rightly so. Last on the yamaha stage was Cassadee Pope, I really like this girls voice. It wasn’t her first time playing the O2 as she mentioned in the press conference that she’d played back in 2009 with her previous band Hey Monday. She too played three songs, the second of which was a brand new song, it sounded great, I’m looking forward to hearing more of that at some point but the last song, Wasting All These Tears reminded me of a young Taylor Swift.
Then it was time for the headliner, the one and only Reba McEntire. Wearing a sparkly top she shone in more ways than one tonight, I was blown away, speechless. Being Country music royalty I knew she was going to be good but I didn’t think she’d be that good! Songs that stood out for me were Fear of Being Alone, And Still, and Going Out Like That, the latter of which was a really energetic performance. I really liked the fact that she spoke a lot, she told us stories behind certain songs – why she recorded it, about the music videos – where they were filmed, watching her first one, waiting for it to come on after a film. I mean she showed her age telling some of these stories but who cares, she’s been doing this for forty odd years!! It was great to get to know her and her music better through her talking to us about what she’s going to play next. She talked of her upbringing, which I found interesting, I didn’t know her father was a rodeo champ! It was nice to hear her take it down a step and play Greatest Man I Never Knew. Again it was lovely that she introduced and thanked her band but Reba took it one step further and thanked all her crew that work behind the scenes that we as an audience don’t get to see. Then she played sweet Chariot which started off very stripped back and quite slow and built up so that by the end everyone was dancing and clapping along. A highlight for me was actually when she told us about her friendship with Kelly Clarkson and how that progressed into Clarkson becoming her daughter in law! Then she sang Because of You which I’ve always thought is a well written song. The duet she sang with her backing singer was phenomenal as well, I mean that really moved me, it was just so powerful. When she left the stage I knew she had to come back, she couldn’t leave without playing Fancy. And sure enough after a quick change into a red sparkly dress, reba returned and played the song which she says is becoming her signature hit. It was fantastic, and again a standing ovation was given and someone even threw a bouquet of flowers onto the stage for her, I’ve never seen that before!
So with just one day left now all I’ll say is make the most of it! See as many acts as you can on the pop ups and enjoy the main stage artists, and if you can stay and see them all, it’s a shame to see half empty arenas for the opening act or the headliner. I know there’s trains to be caught and some music might not be to your taste but maybe check it out, give it a chance, you might just be surprised!