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Brad Paisley @ Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre, St Louis, Missouri – Gig Review

Brad Paisley is a born entertainer. His show not only has the musical intensity of Eric Church and the energy and humour of Dolly Parton, but also brings a little extra magic that only Brad can pull off. Whilst in the hands of other performers some of the backing videos would fall flat, Brad makes them genuinely funny, such as the video montage playing during ‘Celebrity’ where a Brad caricature pulls pranks on the street and reenacts famous musical moments from Nicki Minaj’s ‘Anaconda’ to Miley Cyrus’ ‘Wrecking Ball’.


Mickey Guyton


Kip Moore being better than Justin Moore

Kicking off the night was the amazing Mickey Guyton, one of the strongest vocalists I’ve heard. Whilst I wasn’t familiar with many of her songs, the quality of her voice was enjoyable on its own and her stage presence was also top-notch, paying attention to her fans and just seeming to be really nice as she talked and sang to the audience. She could teach Justin Moore a thing or two about that, since his attempts at crowd interaction fell really flat for me. He spent way too long talking about nothing in particular, and combined with my ambivalence towards his music, this made for a boring set. Having said that, he did bring out Kip Moore as a very-surprise guest, which brought some life to the end of a forgettable set!

Although Brad is one of the very best musically, with guitar skills that are second to none, his show is about so much more. Brining kids on stage to play video games on the big screen (during ‘Time Warp’), giving away guitars or even helping a couple get engaged during ‘Then’, a Brad Paisley concert is the whole package. During ‘Remind Me’, Brad even called up Carrie Underwood on Skype and performed a really cool duet with her, with Carrie projected onto the big screen!


Carrie Underwood on Skype

No doubt a highlight for me was Mickey Guyton coming onstage to sing ‘Whisky Lullaby’ with Brad. In the moment I remember thinking that this pairing could actually be as good, if not better than the original with Allison Krauss! Whilst I think Brad could add more acoustic songs to his set list, it is hard to see which songs he could replace, since they are all smash hits, and he already did a 2 hour show!

Brad Paisley is easily my favourite live performer. Whilst I prefer the music of Eric Church, and he puts on an unbelievable show, Brad just nails it time and again, blending humour, humility and awesome musicianship in a perfect blend, ensuring everyone is left with their minds suitably blown!


Little Big Town, David Nail and Ashley Monroe @ Starlight Theatre, Kansas City – Gig Review

From my previous experience of seeing Little Big Town live, I knew how incredible their show was, and just how much energy they put into making sure their fans leave having had an incredible experience. On this tour however, they have really surpassed themselves, providing openers of the very highest quality in Ashley Monroe and David Nail, both artists that I would travel some miles to see doing a headline show. Having said that, the line up didn’t stop there, since the show was actually kicked off with a set provided by Cam. I’m glad I was early for the show, because Cam is a fabulous live performer, with a small but quality reservoir of songs, including the moving ‘Burning House’.

The main line up kicked off with Ashley Monroe, coming on stage to kick off with ‘Buried Your Love Alive’, a bluesy number from her new record ‘The Blade’. Her short set incorporated older material such as ‘Like A Rose’ alongside new songs ‘Onto Something Good’ and ‘Winning Streak’ as well as a cover of Miranda Lambert’s ‘Heart Like Mine’ which she co-wrote with Miranda. Vocally stunning, there isn’t much to say about her performance apart from that it was too short! However, I did have some issue with the venue’s acoustics, since all the performers seemed to slow the tempo of their songs to avoid any reverb, making Ashley’s gorgeous ballad ‘Has Anyone Ever Told You’ painfully slow, badly needing some extra tempo just to keep it moving! This was a recurring theme throughout the night, giving the impression that some of the performances were very laboured which is unfair to the artists and fans.

David Nail brought a fuller sound to the show, kicking off with a new song that I didn’t recognise. Rattling off song after song, including some of his older material like ‘Red Light’ and ‘Grandpa’s Farm’, as well as some brand new material like ‘Nights On Fire’ and the title track from his upcoming album ‘Fighter’. I was particularly impressed by ‘Fighter’ and in explaining the significance of the song to him personally David really seemed to connect with the audience. Aside from the performance, which was absolutely awesome, I really liked David’s stage presence, appearing very shy and humble before unleashing his stunning vocals. There was no hint of rehearsal of his crowd interaction, which was welcome since it meant that he could build a more real relationship with his fans, explaining the background to some of his songs and speaking of the tough times he’s been thorough, crediting his wife as his inspiration.

Vocally, there are few groups as accomplished as Little Big Town, something they demonstrated throughout their set. Beginning with ‘Day Drinking’ and rattling off hit after hit, one of my highlights was ‘Your Side Of The Bed’, a song that they didn’t play when I saw them in London. Although they didn’t talk to the crowd much, their presence was always felt, and it was nice to see them having such a good time on stage, especially after their lay-off due to Jimmi’s vocal surgery. Ending on their current smash ‘Girl Crush’ was also excellent, and despite my ambivalence towards it as a song, Karen’s lead vocals were stunning and beautifully complimented by the rest of the group providing harmonies.

Musically, there was never any slip ups throughout the night, although some comedy did occur when Kimberly accidently repeated the first verse on ‘Sober’, even joking about it during the song itself! I feel so lucky to have seen such a fantastic line up, and I can’t wait for my next Little Big Town experience. I’m glad I came to this tour, because not only did I see a great show from Little Big Town, but I got to see David Nail and Ashley Monroe as well. With The Shires supporting their fall tour, it’s safe to say that I lucked out with this line-up, and I feel bad for those who missed out!

Brantley Gilbert, Eric Church and Kenny Chesney at Ford Field, Detroit – Gig Review

Detroit gave me my first taste of an American stadium concert. The only thing I could relate to that was seeing Bruce Springsteen at Wembley Stadium a couple of years ago, but even that iconic gig was dwarfed by the sheer size of Ford Field. With an incredibly exciting guest line-up consisting of Brantley Gilbert and Eric Church, this was a hot ticket to have, and the energy of the crowd definitely reflected that!

The show kicked off with Kenny Chesney’s normal support Old Dominion and Chase Rice. Old Dominion gave a solid, if not hugely special performance, with one song in particular being impressive. Chase Rice however was awful. I like the music of ‘bros’ like Florida Georgia Line, but Chase Rice was easily the worst performer I’ve ever seen, with very little charm, singing ability or, given the fact he co-wrote ‘Cruise’, writing ability.

Brantley Gilbert however, was on top form. At this point in the gig I was sceptical of having shows in such a big arena, but Brantley showed that it can be fantastic, with the rock energy of his set owning the stadium. His rock numbers were really cool for the life they brought out of the crowd even at the early hour, but his more emotional songs like ‘One Hell Of An Amen’ and ‘You Don’t Know Her Like I Do’ were really special, showing off both his vocal and writing ability.

Next up was Eric Church. It’s safe to say that I pretty much bought the ticket just to see him, so I’m going to focus most of this review on the Chief. Beginning his set with a magical acoustic version of Springsteen’s ‘Thunder Road’ was a risk since American audiences seem to go to shows just to drink beer and party, but I thought it was absolutely brilliant. Following up with his hit ‘Springsteen’ was also fitting, and got the crowd going with some singing.

Eric Church is simply the best performer I’ve seen, and as he rattled off hit after hit, it was easy to tell that the audience was just as into his set as I was. It’s hard to isolate particular highlights since I pretty much love all his songs, but ‘Talladega’ was particularly poignant at this stage of my life, as was ‘Pledge Allegiance To The Hag’. Whilst he was amazing, it wasn’t as special as his unique acoustic set in Nashville. I think in some ways I’ve been spoiled with that since I find it unlikely that I will ever hear anything that will compare to that performance, and certainly Eric with his full band was somewhat less unique, yet still incredibly electric and special.

If I were Kenny Chesney I wouldn’t have let Eric Church anywhere near my show, since no matter how good he was, Eric was always going to steal the show. Having said that, arriving to the stadium on a levitating chair whilst singing ‘Drink It Up’ was a pretty damn cool opening! Throughout the show the crowd was the loudest I’ve ever heard, possibly because there were about 100,000 drunk Kenny Chesney fanatics in the stadium! For me however, the set was a little one dimensional, with very loud rock sounds throughout. I would have preferred Kenny to perform more of his fantastic stripped back songs like ‘Down The Road’, but unfortunately the closest he got was ‘Wild Child’ which was less powerful without Grace Potter’s beautiful harmonies. Don’t get me wrong, Kenny put on a great show, but it was more of a party than a concert, and I was definitely not drunk enough to take full advantage of the atmosphere.

Sunflower River Blues and Gospel Festival

Compared to the tourist haven of New Orleans it was so refreshing to arrive in Clarksdale, definitely the ‘realest’ place I’ve been to on this trip, with little to do aside from various blues music landmarks and dive juke joints. With the blues festival going on, it turned out that there was plenty to do just listening to some of the fantastic artists playing. Continue reading