REVIEW: Dan + Shay – Live At O2 Academy2, Birmingham

C2C really was a breakthrough moment in the UK for Dan Smyers and Shay Mooney. Positive feedback all round for their energetic set, and it didn’t take them long to announce a follow-up UK tour for November/December. The difference in attendances from the previous tour to this one has been astonishing; the guys have pretty much sold-out every venue they’ve visited and they will only get bigger and bigger from here. I was lucky enough to see them in Birmingham, which is always a challenge when it comes to attendances, but they packed out the O2 Academy2, and gave all of us a Friday night to remember.

Catherine McGrath kicked off the evening’s entertainment. What can I say about Catherine that I haven’t said before? She’s an absolutely phenomenal talent who has totally earned the amazing opportunities she’s had touring-wise this year. I feel like I’ve seen her every week! Backed by a drummer and electric guitar player, it was great to hear Catherine’s music with a fuller sound rather than acoustic. She treated us to some stunning performances of fan favourites ‘Cinderella’, ‘Hell Would Have To Freeze Over’ and ‘Starting From Now’, as well as her two newest songs ‘Talk Of This Town’ and ‘Thought It Was Gonna Be Me’. Every track sounds like a mega-hit in waiting and her delivery is just effortless. We can’t wait for the full album next year and I’m sure we’ll be seeing a lot more of Catherine in the next 12 months!

Dan + Shay are the real deal when it comes to live performances. For me, only Gary LeVox of Rascal Flatts can compete vocally with Shay Mooney; the similarities are obvious and Shay’s range is simply incredible and totally effortless. Combine this with the duo’s immense stage presence and infectious energy, and you’ve got all the ingredients for a thoroughly enjoyable show.

They kicked off the show with fan favourite ‘All Nighter’ which raised the roof; they had the crowd in the palm of their hand from the moment they walked on stage. It was a powerful start to the set, followed by their #1 hit ‘Nothin’ Like You’ and my personal favourite from their debut album, ‘Stop Drop + Roll’ keeping the energy levels topped up! It feels like anthem after anthem. These are all classic singalong tracks that were simply made for the live show.

Surprisingly, there were four covers included in the set list. But every single one of them worked a treat. The first of which was Bon Jovi’s ‘You Give Love A Bad Name’ – by far the rockiest I’ve ever seen Dan + Shay and probably the rockiest they’ll ever be! Returning to more familiar ground, they covered Rascal Flatts’ ‘I Like The Sound Of That’, written by Shay, which of course proved hugely popular with the country-loving audience. However, they pushed the boat out once again later with covers of The Killers’ ‘Mr Brightside’ which got the audience bouncing and Cee Lo Green’s ‘Forget You’, displaying the duo’s hugely diverse range when it comes to musical influences.

It was great to hear a slightly different set list to their previous UK tour. This time, we were treated to performances of ‘Lately’ and ‘Lipstick’, two of my favourites from the sophomore album that I was desperate to hear live. Needless to say, they were delivered in style.

My personal highlight was the stripped-back part of the set; just Dan + Shay doing what they do best with simply an acoustic guitar for backing. They gave us an utterly flawless rendition of the soul-infused ‘Obsessed’, showcasing Shay’s prowess to the extreme with some unbelievable vocal runs that few could compete with. Dan’s a little biased when he describes Shay as “the greatest singer in country music” but on that performance, it’s difficult to argue.

They finished the set by taking us right back to the start with their very first hit, ’19 You + Me’, a timeless classic that we still play regularly at YLIAS HQ! It has a special place in the hearts of the Dan + Shay fanatics and provides a time to reflect on just how far these guys have come in a few years. With a third album in the works and a seemingly ever-growing fan base on both sides of the Atlantic, there’s no stopping these guys and we can’t wait to have them back hopefully sooner rather than later.

Dan Wharton
@LifeInASong_Dan