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News: Clare Bowen To Headline First UK Tour & Release Debut Record

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Hit TV show “Nashville” may be soon leaving our TV screens but fear not as the cast aren’t going anywhere. In fact, ahead of the finale airing in the US, Clare Bowen – better known as Scarlett O’Connor has announced the release of her debut album just in time for her first ever headline UK tour.

Released via BMG, you will be able to hear the album in full on August 31st – if you haven’t already heard it, make sure you check out Clare’s single “Let it Rain” for a sneak peek of what’s in store. “Let it Rain” was debuted on Bob Harris’ Radio 2 show and has already received a great reaction.

As previously mentioned Clare will be headlining her first UK tour after numerous visits with her “Nashville” cast-mates where they sold our shows at the 02 Arena as well as three nights at the prestigious Royal Albert Hall. The tour kicks off in Birmingham on September 2nd before concluding in Brighton on September 13th with numerous stops in between.

Growing up in rural Australia, Clare was influenced by her parents’ music collection where she explains “Music was my connection to the rest of the world, I was brought up on my parents’ vinyl collection – everything from Vivaldi, to Elvis, to Dolly, to Springsteen, Edith Piaf and Etta James.” With those influences her album which has been years in the making will sure to be a treat.

 

CLARE BOWEN |  2018 UK TOUR DATES
(With Special Guests Striking Matches)

Sep 2 | Birmingham, UK | Symphony Hall

Sep 4 | Gateshead, UK | Sage Gateshead

Sep 5 | York, UK | York Barbican

Sep 6 | Manchester, UK | Bridgewater Hall

Sep 8 | Glasgow, UK | Glasgow Royal Concert Hall

Sep 9 | Cambridge, UK | Cambridge Corn Exchange

Sep 10 | Guildford, UK | G Live

Sep 12 | London, UK | Royal Festival Hall

Sep 13 | Brighton, UK | Brighton Dome

Tickets and VIP upgrades for the UK tour are available at clarebowenofficial.com

Follow Clare Bowen on: Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

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Gigs

Review: Sugarland at C2C

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When Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush were announced as part of the C2C 2017 line up, one of the first things I and I’m sure a lot of fans thought was would we have ourselves a Sugarland reunion? While this was a question both artists were asked, despite fantastic solo sets from both Jennifer and Kristian, unfortunately the reunion we were hoping for wasn’t to be.

Not that year anyway…

After presenting Duo of the Year at last years CMA Awards, Jennifer and Kristian alluded to a Sugarland reunion when Jennifer said, “We’re here to present the CMA Award we won together in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011… and well, who knows?” much to the delight of the audience.

News later came that Big Machine had signed Sugarland to the label with an album and tour announced shortly after. Lucky for us, the first official Sugarland shows were set to be played in the UK as part of C2C 2018.

From the moment they walked out on stage you would never know that this was only the second show, in fact you would be forgiven to think the duo had never been away. They oozed professionalism and had the crowd in the palm of their hand from the get go. The set felt nostalgic but also made me very excited for the future of Sugarland, as it is clear to see they are still headline material.

Performing a number of their beloved hits, including “All I Wanna Do”, “Stuck Like Glue”, “It Happens” to name a few before ending their high energy set with a cover of Simple Minds “Alive and Kicking” the pair looked happy, relaxed and like they were loving being back together on stage. Both performed one of their solo tracks, Kristian performed “Trailer Hitch” before Jennifer took on “Unlove You”, a beautiful moment in the show. It was great to see how they both took a step back to let one another shine during the solo moments.

Sugarland can have you in tears one moment with ballads like “Stay”, then have you singing your heart out the next with songs in the realm of “Baby Girl”.

I didn’t know how much I wanted a Sugarland comeback, until I witnessed it happen. Despite going their separate ways for several years to take on solo projects, it is more than evident that the magic is still there. Separately, they’re fantastic. Together? Magnificent.

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Reviews

Review: Maddie and Tae Live at KOKO

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Maddie Marlow and  Tae Dye burst onto the country scene in 2014 with the slightly controversial “Girl in A Country Song”, a song that went on to be the duo’s first number one single on country radio.

Following a very successful UK debut on the main stage at Country to Country in March 2016, the August 24th 2017 show at KOKO in London was part of Maddie and Tae’s second headlining UK tour.  I was initially feeling reserved about the concert as the duo have already toured their debut album, “Start Here”, extensively in the UK. However, my reservations were quickly cast away when Maddie and Tae hit the stage, opening with the upbeat “Your Side of Town”.

It was clear to see that all their touring in the US has paid off, the duo is even more confident than before and knew how to work the crowd. The set list was filled with firm fan favourites and new material.

“No Place Like You” was a highlight of the show as the crowd were singing every word at the top of their lungs, with a huge burst of energy and loud cheering from the London crowd, it was clear to see Maddie and Tae could not believe the reaction, especially to a song that was never even a single. This is what I love about UK audiences and Maddie touched on this too saying how much she loved playing in London because we listen to the entire record and know every word to every song, even some of the new unreleased material.

Of the new songs debuted I particularly liked “Welcome to The Club”, which is a fun upbeat song Maddie and Tae wrote to help Maddie’s younger sister get over her first heartbreak. I love this song and hope it’ll be on their highly anticipated sophomore album. It’s a song that is relatable, with lyrics like ‘If you’re gonna get where you’re going, you got to get a little bit broken, it’s weird and it’s real and it sucks, welcome to the club” it will appeal to their demographic of girls and young adults – once again showing Maddie and Tae as strong female role models within the country music industry. They are most definitely not ‘tan-legged Juliet’s waiting for a redneck Romeo’.

One of my other favourites of the new material Maddie and Tae was “Just Fine”, another uplifting, learning about the trials and tribulations of growing up kind of song. This would be a great first single from the sophomore album and I could see this doing very well on country radio.

Maddie and Tae switched up their hit second single “Fly” by cascading into a mash up with the bridge and chorus of Coldplay’s “Fix You”, of course this went down incredibly well with the London crowd. The other cover that the crowd went wild for was “Slow Hands” by Niall Horan.

The duo finished with the ever popular “Girl In A Country Song” and brought country living to London ending with “Shut Up & Fish”.

In conclusion, Maddie and Tae have become a slick and polished duo, interacting with the crowd and feeding off the electric vibe throughout the show at KOKO. These girls get better and better every time I see them and I wouldn’t be surprised if similar to predecessors – Hunter Hayes & Kip Moore –  that have performed at KOKO following the release of their sophomore album they’d be headlining a show at Shepherd’s Bush Empire. There is currently no date, or title for the new album, however given the quality of song writing and songs I heard during this show, I have no doubt in my mind that it will be a hit.

Set List:

  • Your Side of Town
  • Right Here, Right Now
  • Sierra
  • Waiting on A Plane/ One Headlight
  • We Are Going to Get There
  • No Place Like You
  • Why You Looking At Me
  • Welcome to The Club
  • Slow Hands [Niall Horan Cover]
  • Growing [Acoustic Solo]
  • Downside of Growing Up
  • Walk in Her Heels
  • Smoke
  • Fly/ Fix You
  • Blame It on The Tree
  • Just Fine
  • Girl in A Country Song

Encore:

  • Somebody Will
  • Shut Up & Fish

The debut album “Start Here” is available to buy on iTunes and you can keep up to date with the duo by following them on their social media channels;

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and their official website.

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Review: Miranda Lambert “Highway Vagabond” Live in the UK

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If you had asked me a few years ago who I would love to see play a show in the UK, I would have said Miranda Lambert. I also would have told you it would never happen. At the time Miranda Lambert was and still is one of, if not the biggest female artist in Country music today and at the top of her game in the United States. When it was announced in late 2015 that she would be a headliner for Country2Country in 2016, I for one was over the moon. Fast forward to late 2016 and a UK tour announcement was like all our Christmas’s came at once. Tickets purchased for Glasgow and London the countdown commenced.

I’m sure by now most people have heard about Glasgow and encore-gate. For years I have been told the Glasgow crowd are one of the best and I was excited to finally experience that for myself. However, a number of factors left me feeling a little disappointed. The show itself seemed to be going well, but unfortunately the venue chosen was the wrong one. Security were beyond strict with people standing and dancing, which killed any kind of atmosphere that was being built between Miranda, her band and the crowd – something Miranda picked up on as she noted on a couple of occasions that she thought the crowd would’ve been rowdier.

I will give it to the Glaswegian crowd, they tried, they did but from the stage I’m not sure it could be seen that people in different sections were being told to sit by security while those upfront were able to sing and dance to their hearts content. Making her way through the well-rounded set list of old and new, it came to introducing the band to the audience. Everything was fine until Miranda got to the last band member, a lovely guy from Essex, England which prompted boos from some of the crowd that turned into cheers once Miranda asked the audience to show her band member some love. Gotta love that old England and Scotland history! *Insert eye roll here*

There have been a lot of comments made over the last week, those saying the boos were banter or panto but honestly regardless of this booing at a show is rude and it is not the time or place. My stance on that is if you want a panto, wait for Christmas and get yourself a ticket. Miranda and the band continued, finishing on a great performance of “White Liar” and then just like that Miranda said her goodbyes, the lights went up and the show was over. People stood and waited for an encore but as soon as the stage was left, crew were there disassembling equipment.

From fans who met Miranda after the show, including myself it was clear she was visibly upset and wasn’t aware of the England and Scotland ‘banter’ and didn’t know why people were booing. Whether this was the cause of the show finishing slightly earlier, we won’t know but sadly the misunderstanding and venue troubles took the shine away from what should’ve been a great night for both Miranda & co and the crowd.

A couple of days later it was time for London and honestly I was apprehensive. I thought Miranda would either not be up for it after Glasgow and the comments made by fans over the past few days on social media or it would be one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. Thankfully, it was the latter. The whole vibe was different, whether the London crowd had heard about the drama and wanted to make up for it in a sense or whether that would’ve happened anyway who knows, but from the moment the pre-show music started the crowd were on their feet cheering, much to the elation of Miranda who appeared to be content and at ease on stage.

From the get go Miranda seemed to relish in the atmosphere at Hammersmith, saying quite early on mid song “now that’s what I’m talking about”. Starting the set with “Fastest Girl in Town” it was high energy, all guns blazing with everyone up on their feet, with people cheering and singing along happily.

I’ll be the first to admit that there were some tracks on Miranda’s latest album “The Weight of These Wings” that didn’t resonate with me that much, but after seeing them being performed live I have a new love and appreciation for them. If you’ve heard “We Should Be Friends” and “Pink Sunglasses” sang on the streets of London the last couple of days, chances are it was this girl here. These are tracks that are so more suited to a live show and inject fun between the more emotional songs like “Over You” and “Ugly Lights”.

A highlight was “Ugly Lights”, a song Miranda says was written after her divorce where she admittedly maybe drank a little bit too much while she was sad, but then she got happy again. This then went into a crowd favourite “Mama’s Broken Heart” which I’m not ashamed to admit at this point I almost lost my voice screeching along.

Once again it was time for the band introductions, which went a lot more smoothly than it had done days previous. With the crowd roaring loudly for the Essex Steel Guitar player – Spencer Cullum -Miranda told the crowd she’d been waiting six months to hear that. At this point, Miranda shared the spotlight with her backing singer Gwen Sebastian who currently has a single out called “Cadillac” which was co-written with Miranda. Before leaving the stage temporarily, Miranda told the crowd that Gwen was going to perform her new song and I for one love that even in her own show she gives  others a chance to shine.

If you haven’t heard of Gwen Sebastian, I highly recommend you go and check out her solo material. I’ve been to a lot of shows and I have never paid as much attention to the backing vocalist as I have Gwen, her stage presence is brilliant, she’s so fun to watch and puts on her own little show stood behind Miranda. Whether it’s dancing while she waits for her cues to do her part, or her general interaction with the rest of the band, you can’t not watch. The crowd listened intently as she performed “Cadillac”, her vocals soaring through an almost silent venue until they erupted with applause which appeared to really touch Gwen before Ms Lambert returned to the stage.

At this point, we got a lovely surprise in the form of Miranda’s boyfriend Anderson East who Miranda said had performed in Europe more than she has, so he was showing her the ropes. Performing “Getaway Driver” together, their voices harmonised perfectly and it was clear to see how happy and in love they are with each other, something that was not lost on the crowd. I’ve never seen Anderson perform before but enjoyed what I saw and will definitely check out his own material.

Miranda is known for big powerful songs, full of attitude and while they are crowd pleasers it’s the tracks “Over You”, “The House That Built Me”, “Tin Man” etc that really show off her vulnerable side that maybe isn’t shown as much with her badass persona. She commands a respect from the audience during these moments, that they are more than happy to give.

One of my favourite parts of the show was “Little Red Wagon”. Again not a favourite of mine from the “Platinum” album but it’s so fun and sassy when performed live, even more so with the change of lyrics to the cheeky “you only love me for my big sunglasses, and my Tony Lomas I got the hell out of Oklahoma”…take that as you will.

With another rambunctious performance of “White Liar” Miranda performed “Gunpowder and Lead” which while not her most successful song to date, it is absolutely a crowd favourite. Full of attitude andangst, it was an almost perfect end to an amazing show. However, the encore made it that much more special.

“Tin Man” is one of the best songs of Miranda Lambert’s career, it is raw, vulnerable and soul bearing and I’m so happy we got to see it being performed live in London. You could’ve heard a pin drop as the packed Hammersmith Apollo listened intently to one of the best in the business up on stage accompanied by just a guitar. I’ll be very surprised if it isn’t nominated, let alone wins Song of the Year at the CMA Awards!

 

Finishing with a cover of U2’s “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” with the help of her band members and road family, I left Hammersmith with sore feet, an almost lost voice and sore hands from cheering so much. Everything I want from a gig and more.

Set List:

  • Fastest Girl in Town
  • Kerosene
  • Heart Like Mine
  • Highway Vagabond
  • We Should Be Friends
  • Vice
  • Baggage Claim
  • Over You
  • All Kinds of Kinds
  • The House That Built Me
  • Pink Sunglasses
  • Ugly Lights
  • Mama’s Broken Heart
  • Cadillac [Gwen Sebastian]
  • Getaway Driver [with Anderson East]
  • Ain’t Living Long Like This [Rodney Crowell Cover]
  • Automatic
  • Little Red Wagon
  • White Liar
  • Gunpowder and Lead

Encore:

  • Tinman
  • Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For [U2 Cover]

A special thank you to Kevin Cottreau for allowing us to use photo’s and video taken by him in our review.

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Review: Kelsea Ballerini Live in London

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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

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