REVIEW: The Cadillac Three/Brothers Osborne – Live At Rock City, Nottingham

We are truly spoilt for choice these days. A mere 5 days after winning Vocal Duo Of The Year and Video Of The Year at this year’s CMA Awards, Brothers Osborne were opening for The Cadillac Three in the iconic Nottingham venue Rock City, which isn’t a venue that normally appears on the country music circuit. Kerrang readers voted it their Venue Of The Year for 10 consecutive years, and we guess that those readers swelled the ranks of us country aficionados who embrace the heavy southern rock of The Cadillac Three.

It was busy. Very busy. And the vast majority had shown up early to see the support act. In Nashville, Brothers Osborne are now hot property. The follow up to their hugely successful debut album ‘Pawn Shop’ is in the can and a headlining UK tour is on the calendar for May 2018. John and TJ are long time pals of The Cadillac Three; an opportunity to tour together was something they just couldn’t do in the US due to scheduling, but everything lined up for this UK adventure. A 45 minute slot merely wetted our appetites for next year.

7 songs – 6 from the ‘Pawn Shop’ album and new single ‘Shoot Me Straight’ was all we had to be going on with but boy, these guys know how to get a crowd fired up. It’s probably fair to say the majority of the crowd didn’t stay up till the early hours of Thursday morning to watch the CMA Awards; I’m also confident in guessing that a large percentage wouldn’t have known much of their material. They will now. This venue has hosted many iconic guitar shredders over the years but I doubt any of them can play any better than John Osborne. He loves a guitar solo, none more so than the signature solo in ‘Stay A Little Longer’, their biggest hit to date. Hearing it live is an experience – ‘powerful’ would be an understatement!

They recognised that they were playing to a crowd that were there to rock. Mellow tracks, with the exception of ‘Loving Me Back’, were omitted, including their second single ’21 Summer’. It was high energy with crowd participation throughout and the set ended with a song that is fast becoming an anthem – ‘It Ain’t My Fault’. Get your tickets early for next year’s tour, you won’t want to miss them!

The Cadillac Three are an absolute engine. They are signed to Big Machine Label Group; their debut album sold moderately well but this album’s sales are dwarfed by Brothers Osborne’s. They’ve spent a large part of the year touring with Florida Georgia Line and will support Luke Bryan alongside Kip Moore in February. Not your run-of-the-mill tour pairing! In the UK, they are big. Certainly big enough to headline sizeable venues with the loyal fan base who follow them around.

Lead singer Jaren Johnston has penned songs that form my playlist of favourite country tracks. Tim McGraw, Keith Urban, Jake Owen, Drake White, Frankie Ballard and Kenny Chesney have all benefitted from this guy’s expertise. However, you won’t hear him performing any of them – his work for The Cadillac Three remains compartmentalised. He also has one of the most distinctive voices in the genre, although you won’t hear them class themselves as a country band. “Thanks for coming out and supporting whatever you call this shit that we do”….and I don’t think anyone in that crowd was too bothered. Good music is good music.

Let’s call it country rock. “We are The Cadillac Three from Nashville, Tennessee” is a phrase Jaren has used for years and it still receives a huge cheer. The 23-song set began with ‘Peace Love and Dixie’ from the band’s 2016 ‘Bury Me In My Boots’ album, one of 7 lifted from that album. Since that was released, we have had the pleasure of hearing new music from TC3 with their new ‘Legacy’ album, and they were keen to showcase it. “We are very proud of our new album and we hope you all like it. If you don’t, you can kiss my ass”!

The new album is superb. Hearing the live interpretation of these songs was a huge highlight of the evening. If your musical taste veers towards the country side of things, the new album will resonate. It’s probably the most ‘country’ TC3 have ever been.

Jaren’s recollection of the build up to last year’s Download Festival and their trepidation of performing in front of hard-core rock fans served as a fantastic introduction to ‘Bury Me In My Boots’, which is TC3 at their very best. 3 guys on stage, no bass player – how does this work? Well, ask Kelby Ray who manages to do the job of 3 musicians. He must save them an absolute fortune in session musicians!

What is it that makes a gig special? The venue? The band? The crowd? Usually a mix of all 3, but it certainly helps when the crowd know every word to every song in the set. The atmosphere built throughout the night to a climax of ‘White Lightning’ which raised the roof. As an encore, the brilliant ‘American Slang’ is future proof but it was ‘The South’ that set us on our way. “This is where I was born and this is where I’ll die” echoed around Rock City – simply euphoric.

There’s no better sight than seeing the band at the front of the stage smiling, whilst their adoring fans sing their signature song all by themselves. It really doesn’t get much better than that.

Graham Wharton