REVIEW: Maren Morris & Ryan Hurd – Live In Birmingham

Maren Morris’ career just continues to go from strength to strength. Cast your minds back to March 2016 – a relatively unknown Nashville girl steps onto the Town Square Stage at C2C and utterly blows us away. One CMA, ACM and Grammy Award later, Maren Morris has become one of the biggest emerging talents in the genre, and her star continues to rise on both sides of the pond. She brought her ‘Hero’ tour to the UK a couple of weeks ago for her first headlining stint on our shores, and she packed out venues wherever she went. Not bad progress in a year!

Fortunately, she brought her fiancé Ryan Hurd with her too. A prolific songwriter in his own right, Michigan-born Ryan secured his first charting radio single earlier this year with ‘Love In A Bar’ and released his self-titled debut EP with Sony Nashville in April. As we learned in Birmingham, he’s one hell of a live performer too. After kicking off the show with ‘Chasing After You’, Ryan set the room alight with ‘We Do Us’, a personal favourite (and clearly a fan favourite) from the EP. He showed off his song writing credentials with a performance of Tim McGraw’s ‘Last Turn Home’ as well as Lady A’s ‘You Look Good’, providing some singalong moments, but the real highlight for me was the yet-to-be-released ‘Michigan’, an ode to home. A superb track with that anthemic feel that all radio smash-hits have, with the hook-line “I’m going to Michigan for the winter” (check out the track on YouTube, it’s there somewhere!). Seriously good stuff from another very exciting new artist who will no doubt capitalise on the opportunities Maren will present tour-wise.

Soon after, it was time for the lady everyone was there to see. Maren took the stage with the infectious fan favourite ‘Sugar’, strutting around with that confidence and sass that gives her such a presence up there. The tempo remained high with ‘Just Another Thing’, before she continued the string of favourites from the ‘Hero’ album with ‘How It’s Done’. At Country2Country earlier this year, I thought Maren slightly struggled vocally, but this was a much more accomplished, slick performance and clearly a much more comfortable environment. She had the Birmingham crowd right in the palm of her hand from the moment she walked on, and the atmosphere continually built throughout the night.

She threw in a couple of gripping covers along the way, including a gorgeous rendition of John Prine’s ‘Angel From Montgomery’. She performed this on the Bobby Bones Show for ‘Joy Week’ and has kept it in her set list ever since. The song itself requires no introduction, but it gave Maren a wonderful opportunity to display her vocal ability, stunning the crowd with that signature raspiness and some glorious vocal runs. Towards the end of the show, she also covered Ke$ha’s ‘Hymn’, from her latest album ‘Rainbow’. You could have heard a pin drop in there; everyone was completely lost in the moment.

We were also treated to a little glimpse of Maren’s new material with a performance of ‘Flavor’, a typically Maren-esque catchy track – quirky, full of attitude and an instant hit amongst the Birmingham audience. Ryan Hurd made another appearance for a duet of ‘I Wish I Was’, my personal favourite on the ‘Hero’ album which Ryan co-wrote with Maren, and it wasn’t long before the singalong tracks arrived as ‘80s Mercedes’ and ‘My Church’ inevitably raised the roof!

Maren brought the show to a close in a really interesting way with ‘Dear Hate’. It’s a track she’s had in her catalogue for a long time but she only chose to release it this year with the horrific events that have unfolded in recent months. It was a stunning performance which tugged on the heartstrings and made us all ponder for a moment. No encore – that was that. A fitting end to an evening that had a bit of everything – energy, tear-jerking ballads, a load of fan favourites and most importantly, a charismatic performance from one of country’s new super stars.

Dan Wharton
@LifeInASong_Dan