Phil Vassar at Buckle & Boots

P1010424Collectors of concert set lists would have been disappointed. There wasn’t one. Phil Vassar doesn’t need a running order. He turns up, walks on stage and nails it.

We had been treated to a mass of great music over the course of this exceptional country music festival but no one came close to owning it quite as much as Mr Vassar. It was a mark of his status that the other performers stuck around to witness it. This was typical of Buckle and Boots; we were all in it together.

Phil walked on stage and simply blew everyone away. We had had the pleasure of discussing the show with him days before the concert and he told us that he was using his mates from Manchester to support him. They did an exceptional job. You have to be a great musician to back Phil Vassar. He goes off on so many musical tangents.

This type of relationship isn’t developed overnight and watching the reactions of the guys when he was shouting out to the audience for the next request was fascinating. It’s common to credit the performer but the guys creating the sound deserve the plaudits too.

He strode on stage and opened proceedings with ‘In A Real Love’. A massive crowd pleaser that set the tone for a set that was essentially a greatest hits package with a couple of surprises thrown in.

Phil’s style is unique. He has a piano stool but hardly uses it. He prefers to sing and play piano standing up and in doing so the Vassar mannerisms and moves add to the vibe that he creates throughout his show.

The audience were asked for requests. He also asked his drummer at one point what he wanted next and then performed ‘Hot Tub’. It was that sort of show. He was having a ball. He genuinely seemed blown away that he was appearing at a UK Country Music festival. So were we.

Phil’s back catalogue is full of high tempo sing-a-long songs. ‘Six Pack Summer’ was a real treat and the crowd’s reaction was memorable. ‘Carlene’ is a song that we all wanted to hear and was delivered in a fashion that mirrored the studio recording. Amazing.

The personality of Vassar was a complete surprise having not had the pleasure of seeing him perform live before. His impression of Tom Jones when he sang ‘Delilah’ was totally spot on. We knew he could sing but didn’t realise that his voice was as good as we experienced here.

Favourites such as ‘Just another day in paradise’, ‘Little Red Rodeo’ and ‘My Next Thirty Years’ followed.

We had personally hoped for a performance of what we consider to be Phil’s best song ‘The Sound of A Million Dreams’. He introduced it as a “new song” as it will feature on his new album to be released at the end of the year. It’s actually a song that was written a number of years ago and  was recorded by David Nail. That version is a straight ballad whereas Vassar tends to sing it in a more up-tempo fashion. It was a pleasure to hear the songwriter perform such a brilliant song.

Phil invited Gary Quinn onto the stage for a rendition of ‘Help Me Make It Through The Night’. A memorable moment for Gary and a sign of the immense respect Phil has for him, just like his fellow Buckle & Boots performers do. A great showcase for two very accomplished vocalists.

We had anticipated a reasonably short set expecting him to follow the pre-arranged published artists running order. However this completely went out of the window. He was on stage for about 90 minutes. No one wanted him to leave. He finished with his take on Lionel Ritchie’s ‘Easy’. A great cover version that was almost drowned out by the audience participation.

An amazing show from a performer who deserves to have a much bigger worldwide status. There are times when you just have to recognise someone’s ability to entertain. There are also times when you know that you were fortunate to have witnessed an ‘I was there’ moment. This was that moment and I was there.

A massive shout out to the sound crew. The quality of the sound mix was stunning and added hugely to the fun that we all had. You remember a performance that is marred by bad sound and this was certainly not one of them.

He left to complete adulation and the reaction of the guys on stage was obvious. It had meant a lot to them also.

We had the privilege of attending back stage in the artists green room immediately after the show had ended. It would be very fair to say that the reaction of everyone back stage mirrored the views expressed by the guys front of stage. If you are impressing your peers, you must be doing something right.

Phil himself was blown away by the love and support of the UK audience and said that he was determined to do his bit to aid the growth of country music over here. He will be returning to these shores to perform again as soon as he can and we expect that everyone who was at Buckle and Boots will relish the opportunity of a repeat.

The festival deserved an impressive headline act. Phil Vassar was certainly that act.