REVIEW: Dan + Shay – Live at the O2 Institute3, Birmingham

file_000-4We’d waited a long time to see Dan + Shay this side of the pond. When they announced a UK tour earlier this year, I was slightly apprehensive about their profile in the UK. With no C2C appearances to give them the platform, would they be able to draw in the crowds? I never imagined, and neither did Dan + Shay, that the whole tour would sell out. Management got this one spot on – testing the water with the smaller venues, hoping to return next year with a full band.

I must begin by giving a big shout out to Dan + Shay’s team for making us feel so welcome pre-show. We recorded an interview which can be seen HERE, and the boys were totally blown away by the incredible response they’ve had. They seemed so enthusiastic about building their profile in the UK and they can’t wait to return as soon as possible. The crowds have certainly made an impression!

The entertainment began with another stellar performance from the Pauper Kings, who never fail to impress and have established themselves as one of the premier UK acts this year. Henry joked “these songs will be on our first album in 2050” – It must be the only album I know all the words to without actually hearing it! I can’t wait to hear the studio cut; their whole set is full of very radio-friendly, thoroughly enjoyable tracks, and their enthusiasm and charisma really got the crowd going. Fan favourites ‘Goodbye Would Go’ and ‘Friday Night’ were personal highlights, as well as their renditions of Keith Urban’s ‘Who Wouldn’t Wanna Be Me’ and ‘Some Days You Gotta Dance’. Things could take off for these guys very soon – you’ll be hearing a lot more about the Pauper Kings next year.

Dan + Shay came on stage just after 9pm with ‘First Time Feeling’ from their debut album ‘Where It All Began’. It soon became very clear that everybody in that room knew every single word to every single song. They followed this with ‘What You Do To Me’, with Shay’s fast-paced country rapping, and the crowd participation continued. These are just album tracks that were never released as singles; the boys seemed totally taken aback from the response. Sometimes you wonder if it’s a bit of an act, but they had genuine adulation for the fans and it was wonderful to witness such a great connection between them and the audience.

We were treated to a number of songs from their brand new album ‘Obsessed’ too, including ‘How Not To’ which launces on U.S. country radio on Monday. This is destined to be their third #1 in a row; it’s got that signature Dan + Shay pop-country sound with an incredibly catchy hook in the chorus. It’s an impressive album from start to finish, and we heard ‘All Nighter’, ‘Already Ready’ and of course ‘From The Ground Up’ which provoked another immense sing-a-long session. Clearly a very personal song, Shay was visibly emotional as the crowd sang the whole chorus by themselves.

A couple of covers were also thrown in along the way. R Kelly’s ‘Ignition’ isn’t the conventional choice for a country gig but Dan + Shay made it their own and the audience lapped it up. A memorable moment was their version of good buddy Ed Sheeran’s ‘Thinking Out Loud’, an opportunity for Shay to show off his vocal prowess. Man, that guy’s got some lungs in him! It’s a song everybody has heard a million times, but their performance still blew me away. You’ll struggle to find better vocalists in the business.

The only down side was the length of the show – just over 50 minutes was a bit of a surprise. Nevertheless, they certainly delivered and it was a night that will live long in the memory for the few hundred crammed into the O2 Institute3. This tour has been a superb platform for them to build on, and I don’t think it’ll be long until we see them on these shores with a full band.