Live Music

Country 2 Country 2014: The Highlight of the Year, and it’s Not Just About The Main Acts

Country 2 Country 2014

Last year I attended Country 2 Country just on the Sunday, but this year I am lucky enough to be going on both the Saturday and Sunday. Dixie Chicks on the Saturday, along with Brad Paisley and The Band Perry on the Sunday are what I am most looking forward to, as these are artists I am very familiar with and especially in the case of the Sunday duo, particularly like. Wheelhouse was one of my favourite albums of last year, in fact I ranked it 3rd in my Top 9 Country Music Albums of 2013, and the thought of seeing Brad play songs like Southern Comfort Zone live is pretty damn exciting. Likewise, seeing The Band Perry perform Better Dig Two is one of the things I am most looking forward to. With Natalie Maines there’s always the prospect she might rant about a world leader, with David Cameron being a prime candidate to receive a few home truths!

Of the other main acts, I recently bought the latest albums from Zac Brown Band and Chris Young and like those, more so Zac Brown Band. That being said, I’ll be hoping they don’t play Overnight, a song that seemed ill fitting for the album both in style and content. Rascal Flatts I know from the Cars soundtrack, but little else! I have heard very little from Martina McBride, and have only heard one song from Dierks Bentley. With Dierks I can’t tell you what the song is, but it was played a few times on Chris Country recently and I remember thinking I really liked it. I don’t think I’ll be invited to join the Dierks Bentley street team any time soon, but I still have more than 5 weeks to get my act together!

That’s the 8 main acts, made up of artists I know and love, some I have dabbled in, and a few for which Country 2 Country will be an education. 8 bands in one weekend is a pretty good tally, especially when they are country music acts and this is the UK, but it’s only the tip of the iceberg. Just this morning Country 2 Country announced the 27 acts that will be appearing on the pop up stages across the weekend. That means there will be a massive 35 country music acts performing at one point or another on March 15th and 16th – wow. I don’t know the vast majority of these, but I have heard of a few, and have even chatted to some on Twitter, like Hannah Jane Lewis, Raintown and Jessica Clemmons. In fact I have Jessica’s EP to review, so I’d better get on that!

These pop up stage artists are especially exciting, because for the most part they won’t have big music companies behind them, yet, to promote them and bring them to the consciousness of the average country music fans in the UK. I could, and intend to, come away from Country 2 Country having discovered a whole bunch of great new music that I didn’t even know was out there. It’s win win for both artists and fans. Such is the open nature of these pop up stages that I may also get the opportunity to chat to some of them, which is not something you can easily do in the more formal setting of a standard gig venue.

Add in the country market, which last year had some great food and merchandise stalls, as well as representatives from mighty organisations such as The CMA, and this weekend has the potential to be quite awesome. There’s one other thing though…that’s the country music community, many of whom I have the opportunity to chat to on Twitter, and that could be you, yes you who is reading this right now! I know of quite a few that will be in attendance and will get the chance to meet, chat and have a drink with. As someone who is still in the infancy of their country music journey, it’s these people, you, that have recommended artists and songs, and have been the biggest part of my country music learning curve. It will be great to finally meet and put faces to names, some of whom I’d even consider friends, as much as you can be over Twitter anyway!

The country music community, bar none, has been the most accepting and friendly of any I have encountered, and it’s one of the reasons I have plunged head first into a genre of music that was left undiscovered for so much of my life. I can’t wait to be back in The O2, with link minded fans, to see some of the best music in the world today. Country 2 Country is looking like the highlight of the year, and how lucky am I to even have such an event to attend? There are many people out there in the UK who have passionately followed country music for years, and not had anything like Country 2 Country – thankfully they do now.

See you there – I’ll be the one in the chequered shirt and cowboy boots!

Categories: Articles, Country 2 Country, Live Music | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Review: Lady Antebellum – Own The Night World Tour Blu-ray

Lady Antebellum - Own The Night World Tour Blu-ray

Lady Antebellum – Own The Night World Tour Blu-ray

I’m not usually one for watching gigs on DVD or Blu-ray, but this release from Lady Antebellum appealed to me, maybe because they were the first band that really struck a chord with me when I started getting into country music 11 months ago.

That disclaimer out the way, the Own The Night World Tour DVD & Blu-ray was released this past Monday and mine arrived yesterday. On opening it I was thrilled to see a booklet inside with some photos, message from the band and a ton of credits. These days you rarely get a contents sheet, let a lone a multi-page booklet, so my first impression was a good one, and that’s without even having put the disc in the player yet!

Once I started actually watching the Blu-ray I was blown away by the quality, both the video and audio. There are parts where the video camera closes in on various band members, the background blurs and it almost feels like it’s 3D and they are about to step out of the screen. I’ve never been that bothered by 3D, but at moments like this I can imagine how awesome it could be. Gigs viewed in 3D must really feel like you are there and in the crowd, especially with speakers all around the room. Lady Antebellum could end up costing a lot of money if they release a gig in 3D!

I like going to see bands live and I love listening to albums, obviously, but as I alluded to earlier, watching a whole gig straight through at home has never appealed me to that much, unless it’s a live broadcast performance. Two songs into Own The Night World Tour and it became evident that I was going to get much more as the cameras broke away from the gig and we got some backstage footage. This was to be the format the whole way through and turned this release from being just a video recording of their gig to a history of the band and an insight into life on the road. As someone who knows their music but is not very familiar with their journey, this couldn’t have been put together any better. It gave me an insight into the personalities of the people behind the music, and it was nice to see what a genuine and humble band they all are.

The gig itself was really really great, and made me even more regretful that I never got to see them when they were over in London last year. The stage set up was really good and allowed lots of people from different parts of the arena to get close to the band. Both Hillary and Charles are stunning live vocalists, and it wasn’t until watching this that I realised just how talented a musician Dave is. The guy plays everything, and struggles with what colour red to paint his piano it would seem 😉 I like how they involve the crowd a lot – there’s nothing worse than going to see a band and they just stand in front of the mics and perform the CD. I also like how every member of the extended band gets the spotlight and not just Hillary, Charles and Dave.

Of the songs performed as part of the 90 minute main feature, Hello World is the standout for me. This is one of the first songs I heard at the start of my journey into country music last February, so from that perspective it means a lot to me. It also just happens to be an amazing song, with some moments that gave me goosebumps just watching it on my television – I can’t even imagine what it must be like to experience Hello World live. The part towards the end where the song goes almost completely quiet and then rises to the song ending crescendo sent shivers down my spine. Need You Now is another favourite of mine and was a great way to end the show.

Need You Now also highlights my desire to hear more songs from Lady Antebellum where Hillary takes more of the vocals. Don’t get me wrong, both Charles and Hillary are fantastic, I just think the balance swings just a little bit too far towards Charles and I want to hear more solos from Hillary. When they sing together they produce some incredible harmonies, and none better than the ones during Just A Kiss.

There are so many great moments on this Blu-ray, both on stage and on the road. As a Star Wars fan I was tickled by them naming their touring studio R2-D2 and my heart melted when they brought the little girl on stage to sing American Honey. The gas station to gig to celebrate the start of deer season was pretty surreal and the prom gig in Henryville was inspirational. It was great to see how far Lady Antlebellum have come and we see this when footage is shown of them singing Love Don’t Live Here in a cafe segueing into the band performing the same song to thousands in Little Rock.

The bonus songs are presumably from the same gig, except one part with Darius Rucker which looks like it’s from another gig as Charles is wearing a different t-shirt. One of these bonus songs is a cover of Aerosmith’s Sweat Emotion. As a big Aersomith fan that was an appreciated inclusion and they do a great job too. It’s a little odd that these songs from the same gig are in the bonus section and not in the main programme, but maybe because they are lesser known they split them up. It could be they just wanted some songs for the special features section! We also get some more backstage and tour footage, including the bit from a show in San Jose where the lift didn’t fully rise so they started singing with their chests at floor height and had to climb out and onto the stage! The Blu-ray contains no extra footage to the DVD, but you do get the improved video and sound quality that comes with a high definition release.

Lady Antebellum’s Own the Night World Tour Blu-ray is a magnificent release, combining magical live performances with fascinating backstage and historical band footage. It endeared the band to me and fueled the flames of my desire to see them live in person. If you’re a fan of the band you’ll absolutely love this Blu-ray and if you don’t know Lady Antebellum then buy this and get to know them and their music – you won’t be disappointed.

Categories: DVD / Blu-ray Reviews, Live Music | Tags: | Leave a comment

Country To Country 2013 AKA My First Country Music Gigs

Even though I have a friend who’s been desperately trying to get me to a country gig, circumstances have conspired against me and I’m yet to experience my first one. That is all about to change thanks to seeing an advert for Country To Country online some time in December. It was a fortuitous spot as tickets were to go on sale the very next day. I had a little think, considered who would look after our 4 year old son, and then the next morning bit the bullet and bought tickets for my wife and I to go on the Sunday. So I’d be kicking off my country music live adventures in style, with 4 huge artists all on the same day.

Country To Country 2013

Country To Country 2013

Why did I go for the Sunday you might ask? Well, I’m going to tell you even if you didn’t. The big headliner for the Saturday is Tim McGraw, and though he’s somewhat of a legend in the country music business, I only really know him from the film Country Strong. I know, that’s a bit poor on my part, but I’ve been a country music fan for less than 12 months and there’s only so much I’ve been able to consume in that time, and Mr McGraw is one of those who has thus far slipped through the net. Vince Gill is someone I’ve heard of, but not knowingly heard any music of. Little Big Town I hadn’t even heard of before I watched the video on YouTube of the 2012 CMA Awards and saw them both being both presented with an award and being part of the motorboating hilarity. In fact, now I mention that I am going to include the video of the opening segment that was recommended to me by @NewCountryUK. Most reading this will have probably already seen it, but on the off chance you haven’t, stop what you are doing immediately and watch now. Please do not drink whilst viewing, I will not be held responsible for coke splattered monitors. For those of us that have seen it, you know we are going to watch again.

Anyway, let’s get back on track and the 4th artist for Saturday is Kristian Bush, who I only know from Sugarland, a band I do know and like. See, there are some country artists I have actually listened to! So that’s Saturday. Now compare that to Sunday: Carrie Underwood is headlining and is someone I have been listening to for all of my 11 months as a country music fan and like a lot. I am one of the few who probably don’t know Darius Rucker from Hootie & the Blowfish, and in fact I thought I didn’t know him at all. That was until I did some research and found that he was the guy who released Come Back Song a couple of years ago, and that’s a song I really like. LeAnn Rimes needs no introduction, being one of those country artists who has transcended country music into what we know as popular culture. I have owned Leann Rimes CDs since even before my recent foray into country music and unashamedly pronounce my love for Coyote Ugly. That leaves us with Brantley Gilbert, someone I was introduced to by my friend Claire, who is somewhat responsible for me getting into country music. I have both of Brantley’s albums and especially like his more rocky sound on Halfway to Heaven.

After reading that I think you’ll agree that out of the two days, Sunday was tailor made for me. To say I am excited would be somewhat of an understatement, not just for the music, but because I’ll be able to wear my cowboy hat without getting strange looks. Well, fewer than I’d ordinarily get…possibly. This is just the start though and I’d like to get to as many country gigs as I can this year, so if you know of any I should be checking out, then let me know. Please also recommend any albums I should check out from the artists above that I’ve confessed to not knowing much about – my country music education is ever expanding.

Categories: Live Music | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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