Review: Kelsea Ballerini Live in London


Kelsea Ballerini has been making waves on the country scene since her debut single “Love Me Like You Mean It” was released back in 2014, followed by her album “The First Time” the following year. I think it’s safe to say that during that time, Kelsea has defied all the odds against her and has skyrocketed to become one of the faces of the genre right now. As the first female artist to have three singles from her debut album go to number one since Wynonna Judd, with a fourth currently in her sights it was only a matter of time before the Knoxville, Tennessee native made her presence known on our shores with a UK show and what a presence it was.

If you were lucky enough to get a ticket to the sold-out show at Under the Bridge in London, I’m sure you will agree it was a very special evening.

Singer-songwriter Catherine McGrath was the opening act and I’ll be completely honest I hadn’t heard her music so was going in completely ignorant but by the end of her set I wanted more. She was a very pleasant surprise to me, it may have been the first time seeing her live but hopefully that won’t be the last! What I loved about Catherine was her interaction with the audience between songs, it can be quite difficult to be an opening act knowing that you’re not necessarily the reason people are there but she grabbed the audience’s attention and rather than trying to force anything or for interaction feeling awkward, she was personable and hilarious without trying to be which made her even more endearing.

The UK scene is booming with talent right now and I really think Catherine McGrath could become one of the front runners, she’s an excellent storyteller and has a sweet toned voice to match. If you don’t have her EP One, make sure you check it out.

Having toured with some of the biggest stars and having a successful solo tour in the states, it was refreshing to see that despite that a smaller London venue still managed to move Kelsea Ballerini. This was evident throughout the show, she looked ecstatic to be there and frequently told the audience that she was freaking out and couldn’t believe they knew the words to unreleased music – something a UK audience has become known for.

Kicking off the show with her current and last single from her debut album, “Yeah Boy” was a
fun way to start with the crowd singing along word for word from the get go.

A highlight of the show was hearing new material from Kelsea’s upcoming album in the form of “Roses” and “High School”. “Roses” is a different musical direction for Kelsea, it wouldn’t sound out of place on a Taylor Swift record and gives a good indication of what we could potentially expect from album number two, which excites me. I’m sure it’ll bring up the ever present debate of is this country music, but lyrically it tells a story and is cleverly written and that is what should be at the forefront.

Hearing the crowd echo “Peter Pan” was one of the best moments of the night, it’s a fan favourite and with good reason and if it wasn’t an already standing venue would have garnered a standing ovation I’m sure.

“Xo”, Kelsea’s official UK single was an awesome moment where for a short space of time it felt like a soft rock show. I mean, when Kelsea Ballerini tells the crowd to jump it would be rude not to and they happily complied, making the standing venue look like a mosh pit temporarily while Kelsea played drums in a slightly dramatic, theatrical way.


After leaving the stage, the crowd shouted for more and they were in luck. Kelsea came back out, only this time into the crowd with a mic and guitar to perform the title track of her debut album, “The First Time”. It’s one of my personal favourites from the album and to see it be performed in such a small, intimate setting was brilliant.

Of course there was no other way to end the night than with the song that made fans fall in love with her in the first place and that was “Love Me Like You Mean It”. I’m not sure who loved who more, but there was definitely a love fest going on between Kelsea and the London crowd. The atmosphere throughout the entire show was incredible.

It’s always special to see an artist play their first UK gig, whether they’re a smaller artist or someone who is a big name. Those shows are always the ones that go down on your list of favourite gig memories and seeing an artist look humbled by a crowd in another country knowing their music is what I love most about music and this gig reminded me of that.

If you didn’t get to see Kelsea on this trip, fear not because luckily for us she will be back in the UK this October where she’ll be opening for Lady Antebellum on their “You Look Good World Tour”. So if you haven’t already got tickets for that, make sure you do by purchasing tickets here.

You can also download “The First Time” from iTunes, and we cannot wait to hear album number two!

Thank you to Jamie-Lee Bassingthwaighthe for allowing us to use his gig photos.

Set List:

  • Yeah Boy
  • Looking at Stars
  • Square Pegs
  • Dibs
  • Stilettos
  • Roses
  • High School
  • Sirens
  • We Were Like/Girl Crush/Blue Ain’t Your Color/I Hate Love Songs
  • Peter Pan
  • Xo
  • First Time
  • Love Me Like You Mean It
Samantha Stanley

The author Samantha Stanley

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