Country 2 Country came to a close with the whole of the O2 on their feet! During the day, I had the chance to catch more live music than the previous two days and soaked up the sun which was just peeping behind a cloud during Brian Collins set on the Big Entrance Stage. People may have had a big night the night before but that didn’t put them off as a large crowd formed during his set. I headed inside to the Indigo where Willie Jones was about to take to the stage. Every day should start with Willie Jones! He was so full of energy and life as he danced across the stage, delivering his unique brand of music to the BBC Radio 2 stage. He played fan favourites ‘Soul Food’ and ‘Bachelorettes on Broadway’.
Following that, I caught Kezia Gill’s set at the same stage. Although I’ve seen her many times before, every time I see her she seems to take it up a gear and wearing a red sparkly outfit she opened with her latest single. Her stage presence was good, there was banter between the songs with her audience which was almost full to bursting. A real entertainer! There was some fantastic artists on that stage today and following Kezia was Amanda Shires. She was endearing to the audience as she told a story and forgot what song they were playing. Her violin playing skills shine and help her to stand out from the crowd. She went on to play the Spotlight stage where she performed the song ‘The Highwomen’ telling the story briefly behind writing and performing it. A little later on following chats from Lindsay and Mitchell, we saw Pillbox Patti who was on the Barrelhouse stage. That’s been a really cool venue for this years festival. No wonder she has been one of the names on everybody’s lips, she’s another with raw, authentic names.
In the main arena and Lindsay Ell opened the show. To have watched her come up through the years from being a pop-up stage artist, to playing the spotlights to playing the main stage, it was a special moment. Her rockier sound got the crowd in the mood as her talent on the guitar left many speechless. She lost herself in guitar solos, lay down at one point as she played a riff with passion and feeling. The acoustic instrumental leading into ‘Sweet Spot’ was mesmerising and I think it was that number that really got people to pay attention to her. She concluded with her biggest song to date, ‘Criminal’. Madeline Edwards then played the Spotlight stage, her unique tone reeling me in. She performed songs from her latest album, ‘Hold My Horses’ and ‘Mama, Dolly, Jesus’.
It was time for Mitchell Tenpenny. I knew he was good and there were some people eagerly awaiting todays performance but I didn’t see to what extent. He again leans towards the rock side of country but this was the right crowd as they all got on their feet. He interjected his big set to do a cover of a mash-up of ‘Stand By Me’ and ‘I’ll be Missing You’ with his brother offering a rap in the middle. He rattled through songs such as We Got History and Sleeping Alone. I’ve never seen a response quite like that for any artist but the headliners. He sang fan favourite such as ‘At The End Of A Bar’ and ‘Truth About You’. He concluded on ‘Bitches’.
I didn’t know what to expect from Old Crow Medicine Show. Everyone said beforehand they’d put on a good show but it was breathtaking. There was a theatricality about their performance as they took it in turns to become the front man. I particularly liked the track ‘Humdinger’, I thought as the bassist came wielding a Double Bass over his head. They also paid tribute to Jerry Lee Lewis as they performed ‘Great Balls of Fire’. It was amazing to think that in the morning I had been bobbing along to Willie Jones and now here I was dancing to Old Crow Medicine Show; the two artists are polar opposites within the genre. I enjoyed the Acapella harmonies as they gathered around white space. ‘Wagon Wheel’ had the entire arena out of their seats, raising their beers aloft. They concluded on ‘May the Circle be Unbroken.’
I wasn’t sure how Zac Brown Band was going to compete with that set but they were going to give it a try. It was hit after hit for Zac. They opened with ‘Homegrown’ and the audience remained standing as they danced along to ‘Knee Deep’ and ‘Free’. The mashup of ‘Dancing in the Dark’ and ‘Your Sex is on Fire’ was really refreshing to hear. I enjoyed their rendition of ‘Paint It Black’ which appears on the new Stoned Cold Country album out later this month. A particular highlight was watching Caroline Jones and Lindsay Ell perform together but perhaps the audience may need some warning next time as they all desperately searched for memory cards. ‘Sweet Annie’ was a real treat as he took it down a bit and the melody and lyrics had time to breathe. They concluded on the smash hit ‘Chicken Fried’ and you would never have guessed it was the end of Sunday as many still looked fresh faced ready to do it all again.