Striking Matches – Live In Birmingham

photoThe success of Striking Matches in the UK really is incredible. Despite only having one album released, the duo have been able to dominate the UK country charts on 2 separate occasions, and they recently embarked on an 11-date UK tour, playing in front of near sell-out crowds night after night. Their success is largely thanks to the support of Country2Country, who have allowed them to play at C2C festival for the past 2 years in front of hundreds of passionate country music lovers. I was lucky enough to see Striking Matches at C2C 2015 in the Brooklyn Bowl as a newbie to their music, and it didn’t take long for me to realise why Sarah and Justin have established themselves as C2C favourites and captivated British country audiences. Therefore, when a first trip to Birmingham was announced, this was a show I simply couldn’t miss.

After cancelling their own UK tour, John and Jacob announced that they would be opening for Striking Matches, allowing them to play slightly bigger venues. I suspect much of the Birmingham audience had not heard of John and Jacob, but this didn’t matter one bit – they were an absolute delight to watch, and they received the warmest reception I’d ever experienced for an opening act. I have been to a lot of shows in my time, and these guys were right up there with the best opening acts I’ve seen.

Their high-energy set included a range of tracks from their superb debut album, and they also displayed their song writing talents, performing ‘Done’ which they wrote for The Band Perry, and ‘Be My Girl’ which was featured on the hit TV show ‘Nashville’. No band is required with these two, as Jacob plays guitar and trumpet whilst John plays guitar and harmonica. This makes for a really unique show and it gives them a real identity; a John and Jacob show is like no other. They stayed around after the show to talk to fans, and I have to say they are two of the nicest guys I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting.

Soon after, Striking Matches took to the stage, accompanied by a drummer and a bass player, with ‘Trouble Is As Trouble Does’, a firm favourite of mine. This was a wonderful way to kick off the show, as it gives Justin and Sarah an opportunity to mesmerise the audience with their unbelievable guitar-playing skills. The track has so much energy, and the crowd were hooked right from the very first note. A number of tracks from their debut album ‘Nothing But The Slience’ followed, including the very catchy ‘Miss Me More’ as well as ‘Hanging On A Lie’ and ‘Never Gonna Love Again’. The latter provided a great moment for audience participation during the “woah oohh” hook in the chorus, and the Birmingham crowd certainly played their part.

The highlights of the show came during the slower, stripped-back sections that Justin and Sarah performed without a band. The first of which was their performance of ‘When It’s Raining’, a track which didn’t feature on their debut album but has been a fan favourite for quite a while. As much as I love watching their incredible guitar solos during the rocky tracks, I feel tracks like ‘When It’s Raining’ expose Sarah and Justin’s potential the most. This gave them an opportunity to show us their beautiful harmonies, and it was one of those goose-bump moments that will live long in the memory. ‘When The Right One Comes Along’, made famous by Clare Bowen and Sam Palladio on ‘Nashville’, had a similar impact, and this was a real stand-out moment in the show. Sarah and Justin allowed the crowd to sing the whole second verse, and they knew every single word. It was a truly touching moment. A video of the performance can be seen below.

At the end of their near 90-minute set, as Sarah and Justin left the stage, the crowd still wanted more, so they returned to play a further 2 songs for an encore. The first of which was ‘I Ain’t Leaving Without Your Love’, another song of theirs which made it on to the hit TV show ‘Nashville’ (8 of their songs were played on the show). This was followed by a wonderful cover of the Elvis classic ‘Can’t Help Falling In Love’, which they had previously recorded for the BBC. Taking on an Elvis track is never easy, but Sarah and Justin made it their own and their vocals sounded beautiful.

Like John and Jacob, Sarah and Justin stayed after the show to talk to every last person in the building which I thought was a wonderful gesture. They spoke of their excitement about performing on the Yamaha stage at C2C 2016 inside the O2 Arena, a superb opportunity for the duo which will no doubt push their album back up the UK country charts once again. If you have not had the opportunity to watch Striking Matches live, I would encourage you to go and see them, either at C2C next year or maybe during their next UK tour. They are one of a kind and they consistently provide a thoroughly entertaining show with their undoubted talent.

Twitter – @LifeInASong_UK @Flatthead_Dan