Opening proceedings in the arena on Saturday were Dan Smyers and Shay Mooney. They won’t perform in a bigger closed arena in the UK and it was clear from the social media outpourings pre-show that this was a gig that they were very keen to play.
UK fans will have seen these guys performing at venues across the country last autumn, but that was very much a toe-in-the-water affair without a band. This was the real deal and the O2 Arena can be a daunting and unforgiving place to perform for a relatively unknown act.
Their brand of country music is very radio-friendly but also hugely pop-influenced and they don’t appeal to everyone. It was interesting to see what the C2C country fans would make of them. It was certainly heartening to see that the arena had a healthy number of early birds. I can recall a fair few opening acts performing to a half-full venue in years gone by.
Dan + Shay can now call on two albums to fill their set. The openers only get to play for about 45 minutes and they performed 10 songs, split fairly equally between the two albums.
The reception for ‘All Nighter’ will have settled any early nerves and they then ran through a set list that essentially covered their greatest hits.
Whatever your preferences for country music are, I’m guessing that most will have respect for their ability to write and perform songs that are just so damn catchy. I am way out of their demographic catchment area but my appreciation of Dan + Shay stretches to singing ‘19 You + Me’ on Myrtle Beach (where it all began) and it really doesn’t get much sadder than that!
We heard some great singers over the course of the festival but I would put Shay Mooney in the top three. He sounds live as good or even better than in his studio recordings. Dan may be a little biased when he described him as the “best voice in country music” but this guy can certainly power out a tune.
‘Nothin’ Like You’, ‘Road Trippin’ and ‘Show You Off’ were performed flawlessly and crowd favourite ‘Stop, Drop and Roll’ had the crowd rockin’. Talking of rockin’, a Bon Jovi cover was thrown in to appease the arena fans. ‘You Give Love A Bad Name’ will always hit the spot and the fans were very happy to sing along.
‘From The Ground Up’ was the guys’ ‘mobile phone lights’ moment that was genuinely emotional. There is no better place than the O2 Arena to stir the tear ducts. Then, the band took a break as Dan’s acoustic guitar accompanied Shay’s soaring vocals on the sway-along gem ‘Obsessed’. A massive high point.
The true test of really good song is the amount of people who are able to sing along. ‘How Not To’ certainly passed with flying colours.
Those 45 minutes passed very quickly and the opening bars of ‘19 You + Me’ induced mixed emotions. Great song but obviously their last. They left to a standing ovation and it was clear from the man hugs that they gave each other that they were as delighted with their performance as we were.
“It was everything we wanted it to be”
1 All Nighter
2 Nothin’ Like You
3 Stop Drop and Roll
4 You Give Love A Bad Name
5 Road Trippin’
6 Show You Off
7 From The Ground Up
9 How Not To
10 19 You + Me