Miranda Lambert closed out day 1 of C2C Festival in emphatic style as she headlined the main stage and showed London why she was crowned ACM Entertainer of the Year earlier in the week. However, before it was Miranda’s turn to shine, we had seen some of the most impressive newcomers to the genre as well as some hit-makers as C2C got under way once more.
The CMA along with BBC Radio 2 – C2C’s official broadcast partner – welcomed us to the festival, celebrating the return of live country music with a special surprise in store for UK duo The Shires who got presented with the Jeff Walker Global Country Artist award for the third time in their career. It was a nice way to kick off the weekend and was perfect timing with the release of their new album landing on the same day.
Outside of the main arena, it was Big Machine’s Callista Clark that opened the Town Square stage, which was one of my highlights from the day. Quite a crowd had formed early on as people queued to shop and listen, so many had heard of Callista’s talents and were keen to check out her music for themselves. Stood alone with her guitar on that stage she held the audience in the palm of her hand, her powerful voice commanding the room. You could tell by her face, she was overwhelmed and so happy to be here as she sang songs off her EP such as the catchy and sassy, ‘It’s Cause I Am’.
A quick dash to the Indigo followed and there I found Erin Kinsey who I had earlier had the pleasure of chatting to and sharing a packet of prawn cocktail flavour crisps with. Erin had been to the UK before but was excited to share her most recent single ‘Just Drive’ with fans as she laughed and joked about the speed limit in Texas, where she grew up. She connected well with the audience from the moment she first stepped out on stage. The smaller stages this year really seem to be nurturing the future Queens of Country which is great to see.
The main arena begun with ‘Introducing Nashville’ which saw three of the genres fastest rising stars take to the stage in a small writers round style show. Morgan Wade, who has had a whirlwind year kicked things off and received the biggest cheer of all as she played her infectious song ‘Wilder Days’. Tiera brought the love with a couple of songs written about her husband whilst Priscilla Block spoke to every young girl who had ever struggled in high school with a song intended to show the bullies who’s boss with her song ‘Peaked In High School’. Three very different women in country music who all have the potential to be the next big hitters.
Russell Dickerson who impressed at the CMA Songwriters Series the night before showed, with a full band, that he could be a future contender for Entertainer of the Year as his high energy performance had everyone on their feet. He rattled through the hits, ‘Yours’, ‘Love You Like I Used To’ and ‘Blue Tacoma’ but the highlight for me was his big surprise as he brought out Charles Kelley of Lady A to perform ‘Home Sweet’ with him. His medley of ‘Girls Night Out’/’Shut Up And Dance With Me’/’I Wanna Dance With Somebody’ took the energy levels up even higher and some of those dance moves seemed to be channeling Freddie Mercury!
Kip Moore followed and I discovered that his music was well and truly made to be listened to in exactly this kind of setting – a packed arena! He rocked the O2 with his band displaying great musicianship as they ramped up the tempo. The O2 was bouncing as he performed songs such as ‘Southpaw’ off his latest record to early hits such as ‘Somethin Bout A Truck’ and ‘Hey Pretty Girl’. The grit in his vocals resonated around the room and the place erupted when he sang ‘Beer Money’ as they raised their glasses in the air. My highlight was ‘Plead The Fifth’, the melody stuck on a loop inside my head long after his set had finished.
During each changeover on the main stage we heard three acoustic songs from three exciting newcomers, Erin Kinsey, Breland and Brittney Spencer. The latter two had recently performed as art of the ACM Awards and Breland lit up the stage at the After Party. He was a particular highlight of the day, his brand of country is unique and his stage presence is endearing.
But the standout performance of the whole day (and probably the whole weekend for me!) was Miranda Lambert. She took to the stage with ‘White Trash’ which kicked off a one and a half hour set. Dressed in a red top with multicoloured tassels, Lambert worked the stage but kept the talk to a minimum as she played back to back hits and fan favourites, when she did talk she knew exactly what to say to get the London crowd up out of their seats. It was clear she was just so happy to be back on stage and in the UK, eager to play some new tunes like ‘If I Was A Cowboy’ and the edgier ‘Acting Up’ off the new record she announced this week. She brought me to tears with ‘The House That Built Me’ her voice soft yet flawless in it’s delivery, channeling those emotions into each note. Yet she could go from that delicate, melancholy tune to something like ‘Gunpowder and Lead’ in a heartbeat without her voice faltering.
Her laid back approach to ‘Tequila Does’ pleased the crowd as they all joined in the song which switches from 3/4 to 4/4 between the verses and choruses. She touched upon all the different chapters of her artistic career with recent hits like ‘Drunk (And I Don’t Wanna Go Home)’ intertwined with songs such as the 2009 hit ‘White Liar’. On songs such as ‘Bluebird’ and ‘Dark Bar’ Lambert captivated the audience as, somewhat spellbound, they sang along. It was a truly magical performance from start to finish, the energy levels were phenomenal, Miranda really did deliver the performance of a lifetime.
One day down, two more to go and boy is it good to be back!