C2C REVIEW: Emmylou Harris – Sunday 11th March 2018, The O2

Credit: Luke Dyson

With today’s youthful C2C audience, it’s always a challenge for the yearly ‘legend-status’ act to make a mark. Last year, Marty Stuart and his Fabulous Superlatives taught us a lesson in how to ‘nail it’ in front of a new audience; this year it was Emmylou Harris’ turn. Marty proved exactly how important personality is in that situation – you can have great songs and a great image, but if you haven’t got the personality it just won’t click (i.e. Dwight Yoakam). Thankfully, Emmylou had just the right amount of dry humour and humbleness to connect with the C2C fans, and I for one thoroughly enjoyed her hour-long masterclass of musicianship.

Sunday was the perfect fit for Emmylou. It was very much ‘traditional’ day with the exception of Little Big Town. Had she been placed on the Friday or Saturday line-up, I don’t think the reaction would have been quite so positive; people knew what they were buying a ticket for on Sunday and Emmylou was given a proper platform to shine in front of some very appreciative listeners. Much of her set list was made up of classic covers, including the likes of Townes Van Zandt’s ‘Pancho and Lefty’ and Billy Joe Shaver’s ‘Old Five and Dimers Like Me’, which she delivered with class, elegance and ease. Still going strong at 70 years of age, Emmylou and her hugely experienced band were mesmerising to watch and I was honoured to experience an hour in her presence.

We were also treated to a selection of her timeless original material, including ‘Here I Am’ from her 2003 album ‘Stumble Into Grace’ which she opened her set with, and ‘Red Dirt Girl’ from the 2000 album of the same name. Gone were the EDM-influences, gone were the party anthems – we were taken right back in time to a place where good old traditional country music ruled the roost.

The moment everyone was waiting for came at the very end, the 1975 classic ‘Boulder To Birmingham’ from her ‘Pieces Of The Sky’ album. Such a beautiful, iconic track that has more than stood the test of time. Written about her grief following the passing of her mentor Gram Parsons, Emmylou hasn’t lost one ounce of emotion in her live delivery of the song and it really brought out the goose bumps. If you weren’t emotionally immersed in that performance, you’re made of steel!

This was a show that absolutely oozed class from an immensely experienced performer and master of her craft, and we should count ourselves very privileged to have been able to see such a well-respected figure like Emmylou right on our doorstep. 

Dan Wharton
@LifeInASong_Dan

Set List:

  1. Here I Am
  2. Orphan Girl (Gillian Welch cover)
  3. Making Believe (Jimmy Work cover)
  4. Red Dirt Girl
  5. Wheels (The Flying Burrito Brothers cover)
  6. Luxury Liner (The International Submarine Band cover)
  7. Pancho and Lefty (Townes Van Zandt cover)
  8. Michelangelo
  9. Green Pastures (Ralph Stanley cover)
  10. Old Five and Dimers Like Me (Billy Joe Shaver cover)
  11. Get Up John (Bill Monroe cover)
  12. Shores of White Sand
  13. The Pearl
  14. Boulder to Birmingham