After watching Aaron Watson captivate the audience at the M15 Bar in Corona, California back in August, the announcement of a UK tour was music to my ears. Aaron consistently provides a thoroughly energetic, rocking show which is honestly up there with the best live shows I have ever had the pleasure of experiencing. Before his show in Birmingham, I caught up with the man himself, and he said there’s nothing worse than going to see a live show that doesn’t live up to the quality of a CD. Trust me, this is never an issue with Aaron. In fact, his live show takes it up yet another notch.
But let’s not forget Aaron’s opening act, Sam Outlaw, who has just released his debut album ‘Angeleno’ in the UK. The album is a stunning collection of very personal tracks, drawing inspiration from the likes of George Jones and Emmylou Harris; it’s pure country. It deserves so much more recognition in the mainstream market than it will inevitably receive.
In his 30-minute set, Sam performed acoustic versions of most of the songs on the album, alongside talented guitar player Danny Garcia. Sam kicked off with ‘It Might Kill Me’, one which had most of the audience singing along by the second chorus! A personal highlight was ‘Country Love Song’, a clear stand-out on the album too. You could hear a pin drop in the room from start to finish; it was mesmerising. Sam has a lovely personality too – very down-to-earth with a dry sense of humour, and the audience seemed to connect with him instantly. Sam will be back in the UK to do 6 shows in April, and I strongly encourage you to attend a show, you won’t be disappointed.
At around 9pm, Aaron Watson took to the stage with ‘Freight Train’, a rocking country tune which is absolutely tailor-made for his live show. I mentioned before that his show is energetic from start to finish, and ‘Freight Train’ sums this up better than anything else. I have to admit, I was slightly apprehensive about the show as I thought the audience wouldn’t be too familiar with Aaron’s full back catalogue, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. I was pleasantly surprised by the engagement of each and every person around me. Not quite as rowdy as the California crowd (who were VERY loud) but lively all the same!
There were also moments in the set where Aaron brought it down to a slower pace, with tracks such as ‘July In Cheyenne’ and one of my personal favourites, ‘Off The Record’. Aaron told me that “music should be a window into your heart and soul”, and this is something Aaron truly emphasises on stage. Before ‘July In Cheyenne’ Aaron explained the difficult lead-up to the song’s creation, as it was the first one he wrote after the loss of his daughter Julia Grace. Quite frankly, it’s a tragedy that this song (along with every other song) wasn’t a big hit; it’s one of those that just hits you, no matter how many times you play it.
‘Fence Post’ is always a stand out moment in Aaron’s show and is obviously a fan favourite. A humorously written account of his experience with a “big wig executive” in Nashville and his rise to success as an independent artist, this is almost Aaron’s autobiography. The line “I’d rather be an old fence post in Texas than the King of Tennessee” sums Aaron up brilliantly, and it has such an anthemic feel to it when performed live.
Towards the end of the set, Aaron cranked up the tempo once again with a stunning cover of John Mayer’s ‘Wildfire’, followed by ‘Heyday Tonight’, a throwback to the classic sound of country music which really gives the band an opportunity to show off their talents; fiddle player Damian Green in particular. He gave his bow to someone in the audience and allowed them to “play” (i.e. audience member holds the bow upright whilst Damian blindly plays the fiddle with it), which always puts a smile on people’s faces.
Aaron finished with ‘Reckless’, another thumping tune to end the show with a bang. Stunning. Just over 90 minutes of downright country, what more could you ask for?
After the show, Aaron stuck around to talk and have photos with everybody until every person had left the building. It’s great to see an artist who has such love and respect for his fans. Aaron said the UK would become a “regular tour stop” from now on….I certainly hope so! Next time, let’s make the whole tour a sell-out….nobody deserves the support more than Aaron.
Real Good Time
Raise Your Bottle
3rd Gear & 17
Blame It On Those Baby Blues
July In Cheyenne
Wildfire (John Mayer cover)
Off The Record
That’s Why God Loves Cowboys