Day one of C2C was a busy one! Here at Maverick it was fantastic to catch up with artists we’ve interviewed over zoom over the last few years and see them in person. We chatted with a number of artists and we can’t wait to share those conversations with you in subsequent issues of the magazine. There was so much top quality artists on throughout the day before the main arena opened it’s doors. UK artists like Ward Thomas and Brooke Law as well as US artists such as Hannah Ellis and Nate Smith, both of whom were buzzing to be here in the UK.
Two artists in particular impressed me and seemed to go down a treat with the UK crowd and both performances took place in the Indigo on the BBC Radio 2 stage. The first was Ashley Cooke who was speechless at the end of her set, flabbergasted by the amount of people crammed in to see her set and singing along to her songs too. She played acoustically with her guitarist but she held the room in the palm of her hand. Later on in the main arena she took to the Spotlight stage and performed the duet she released with Brett Young, ‘Never Til Now’ whilst her guitar donned a Union Jack flag. Mackenzie Porter also sounded flawless on the spotlight stage as she sang her latest single ‘Pickup’ along with the number one she had with Dustin Lynch which stayed there for six weeks, ‘Thinkin Bout You’.
The second artist to blow me away on the daytime stages was Drake Milligan who came on immediately after. His energetic set couldn’t have been more different from Cooke’s, his old school, rock n roll style of country was something completely different to anything else I’ve heard. I’ve followed Drake’s career for a long time, since he first played Elvis in the dramatisation of Sun Studio and to watch him grow and evolve and be taken in by this UK crowd is heartwarming. He was born, not just to sing, but to entertain and he was the talk of the festival today.
In the main arena the Introducing Nashville segment, introduced last year, proved popular. Caylee Hammack’s reminds me a little of Dolly Parton’s, her fiery personality and well crafted songs couple with that voice make her one to watch. Alana Springsteen knows how to speak directly to the heart and need I say any more about Tyler Braden? Braden is a future Entertainer of the Year. He gives me chills when he sings, a bit like Eric Church, whilst the way he crafts his choruses makes his songs hit-worthy like Luke Combs. The writers round style shouldn’t suit an arena but somehow it does!
Lainey Wilson was up next and the energy levels ramped up. In Gold bell-bottom trousers, she strutted her stuff up and down the stage. She performed ‘Watermelon Moonshine’ from Yellowstone, the TV show she featured in. Though she kept apologising with that deep southern accent because she’d lost her voice, she continued to hit the high notes. You could hear how fantastic her voice was in ‘Wild Horses’ as she belted out and sustained those notes. She surprisingly sang the duet she recently performed with HARDY – Wait In The Truck and the crowd lapped it up. She finished on her big hit, ‘Things A Man Oughtta Know’. The only criticism I have is that I think she should have been on just before Thomas Rhett.
Jordan Davis kept the energy turned up to rock. His band were excellent, tight and regional in their sound. A particular stand out moment in his set was when he performed ‘Detour’ before the band transitioned seamlessly into a rendition of ‘fix You’ by Cold Play. He spoke less to the crowd than what Lainey did but he got through a lot of songs which the crowd were buzzing off. ‘Slow Dance In A Parking Lot’, one of his slightly older tracks, was a favourite amongst the London crowd whilst the witty lyrics of ‘Tucson Too Late’ really had me sitting up and paying attention. He concluded his set on the hit ‘Buy Dirt’ which he released with Luke Bryan. The whole crowd joined in.
Now for the main event, Thomas Rhett who instantly connected with the crowd. After two high performance sets from Wilson and Davis it was great to keep building that momentum. He opened with ‘Craving You’ a song he originally duetted on with Maren Morris. ‘Look What God Gave Her’ followed as he strutted around the stage. The whole auditorium was on their feet by the third song. He continued to bounce around for ‘Life Changes’ before lowering the tempo and stripping it back for a moment for ‘Marry Me’, the graphics on the screen were well thought out and I particularly thought these worked well for ‘Paradise’, a fairly new song he sang after he performed a medley of his earliest songs.
After Paradise he introduced special guest, Niall Horan and the pair duetted on the song ‘Slow Hands’. Rhett got the perfect balance of ebbing and flowing within the set. Following this, he spoke of how his wife and children should have joined him on this trip but unfortunately the couldn’t before breaking out into tear jerker ‘Angels Don’t Always Have Wings’. He went on to play the number one he had for Cole Swindell, ‘She Had Me At Heads Carolina’. He tried some new songs in his set such as ‘Feeling Country’ a foot-tappingly good track that had people dancing involuntarily. People raised their flashlights for his biggest hit, ‘Die a Happy Man’. It was a brilliant show, he’s certainly headline material, it was high energy and yet perfectly framed Rhett’s vocal.