This was my very first concert at the Royal Albert Hall. One word – stunning. From the aesthetics to the acoustics, it’s one of the world’s premier concert venues for a reason. And who better to go and see than the reigning CMA vocal group of the year? From the moment you walk through the door there’s a completely unique vibe as you’re greeted by staff dressed in their iconic red suits; it feels like you’re in the presence of royalty and in some ways, we were. Country music royalty. We knew this was going to be a very special evening and I felt privileged to be in attendance.
A special mention has to be given to LBT’s opening act, Seth Ennis. What an impression this guy has made over the last couple of weeks! After impressing audiences at Country2Country earlier this year, Seth continued the trend, performing much of the material from his debut EP ‘Mabelle’ including the brilliant UK single ‘Fast Girl’ and everyone’s favourite ‘Woke Up In Nashville’.
However, the real stand out moment was his performance of ‘Call Your Momma’, which he’d only written a couple of weeks before, about the importance of calling home and staying grounded whilst out on the road. Phone lights appeared all around us and it created a stunning spectacle that I’m sure would have had his Mum in pieces! It’s a gorgeous track that Seth simply has to release; with its ‘Die A Happy Man’ vibe it’s destined to be a hit. The crowd rose to their feet at the end of his set, a moment Seth told us was the “highlight of my career”.
LBT took the stage at around 9pm, kicking things off with my personal favourite from the new album, ‘Night On Our Side’. The thumping backbeat and the almost Pet Shop Boys-type groove thundered around the Royal Albert Hall and had everyone in the floor seats up on their feet. This was followed up with ‘Happy People’, another masterpiece from the queen of songwriting, Lori McKenna, which seems to have become a fan favourite. At the end of a tough week for country music, this was a much-needed injection of love, peace and happiness.
It wasn’t long before the foursome started to reel off their list of hit singles, including the likes of ‘Pontoon’ and the rocking country anthem ‘Little White Church’, receiving a rapturous reception from their adoring London fans. It was so great to hear some of the new material though, having seen LBT three times already, and my personal highlight was their performance of ‘Lost In California’. That rather haunting guitar riff sounded incredible with the echo of the hall; goose bump moment! ‘Beat Up Bible’ was equally as spine-tingling, with Kimberly taking the reigns on lead vocals, supported by stripped-back instrumentation that stunned the RAH into silence.
Interestingly, there were FOUR covers included in the set list too. Three of them were pieced together as an acoustic medley; Don Williams’ ‘I Believe In You’ (flawlessly delivered by Phillip), Prince’s ‘When Doves Cry’ and Alicia Keys’ ‘Fallin’ – the latter giving the foursome the opportunity to absolutely blow the roof off the place with their powerful, unrivalled harmonies. Later on, they treated us to a rendition of Oasis’ ‘Wonderwall’; now I know what you’re thinking…’it’s been done so many times before’. Indeed, but this was ‘Wonderwall’ with an LBT spin. They transformed the melody into a soulful, almost R&B-infused groove that actually proved to be one of the night’s most memorable moments.
Towards the end of the set, the volume notch was cranked up for some of LBT’s loudest, heaviest material including ‘Stay All Night’ and ‘Save Your Sin’ from the brilliant ‘Painkiller’ album, before the moment that everyone was waiting for arrived. Karen stepped forward, took the spotlight, and absolutely smashed the hell out of ‘Girl Crush’ as the 5,000 in attendance sang along to every word. It just doesn’t get better than that.
After leaving the stage, they returned for a two-song encore which began with ‘Turn The Lights On’. This is one of those real marmite tracks, but I’ve always adored it; one of my favourite introductions which sounds even better in a live environment. I couldn’t stop myself from bouncing along to the extremely heavy chorus – what a song. They followed it with fan favourite ‘Boondocks’ to complete a thrilling 90-minute show that proved why LBT won’t be knocked off their perch any time soon.
There have been some moans and groans about the C2C line-up for next year (me included), much of the criticism aimed towards the choice of repeat acts. Little Big Town have done C2C twice already and admittedly I would have liked a new headliner just like everyone else. But after watching these guys again at the RAH, it’s difficult to argue with their ‘headliner’ status and one thing’s for sure…they’ll put on one hell of a show in March, whether we’ve seen it before or not.