Seeing Hunter Hayes on the line-up, particularly so high up the bill for Saturday, was a bit of a surprise. I’ve always been a big fan of Hunter and his music, but without any real chart success over the last few years, as well as the mixed reaction to his appearance in 2017, it was an unexpected choice from the C2C organisers. That being said, Hunter has been in the studio working on new music and hopes to release a new album this year, his first full-length project since ‘Storyline’ in 2014.
Hunter kicked off the set with a 3-song run of ‘One Shot’, ‘Yesterday’s Song’ and ‘Light Me Up’. A fast-paced opening to crank up the energy at the O2. Unfortunately, Hunter hadn’t been well all week and it was blatantly clear, particularly with those 3 performances. He isn’t the strongest live vocalist anyway – it was a bit of a wobbly start. To be fair to him, he said soon after “as you can probably tell, I haven’t been feeling great”. Maybe a hint of nervousness combined with not feeling 100%, was quite noticeable.
As he got further into the set, though, he did start to settle down, and it was the ballads that really showcased Hunter at his very best. His performance of ‘Invisible’, a deeply emotional track for Hunter and his fans, was the highlight of the set. Beginning with Hunter alone at the piano, building into a crescendo as the band joined in towards the end, it sounded wonderful and was also Hunter’s strongest moment vocally. ‘Wanted’ was a great moment too which got everybody singing along.
It was great to hear some of Hunter’s fresh material too, such as ‘Rescue’ and ‘Dear God’ which really are great songs. The latter saw Hunter make use of some very dramatic lighting effects to fit the depth and darkness of the song, and the song is a real attention-grabber. He also welcomed Catherine McGrath onto the stage for a duet on ‘Don’t Let Me Forget’, which felt a little awkward when Hunter forgot the words. Not what Catherine particularly needed during her big moment!
All in all, the set list was a nice combination of the recent material with the old favourites, including the likes of ‘Somebody’s Heartbreak’ and ‘Tattoo’ which exposed his immense musical ability. There aren’t many better guitarists in country music than Hunter Hayes; it was mesmerising to watch him ripping into some killer guitar solos.
The energy continued towards the end of the set with ‘Storm Warning’, but just as everyone in the arena was expecting ‘I Want Crazy’ to finish the set, Hunter quite abruptly had to leave the stage as he’d ran out of time, which was a real shame.
I’d love to know what Hunter’s honest opinion was as he left the stage. He was clearly aware he was struggling vocally, the crowd never really engaged, his performance with Catherine McGrath didn’t go to plan, and he didn’t have time for one of his big hits. There is so much potential there, and he has some real strong moments, but I think quite a few in attendance felt underwhelmed.
Hunter shouldn’t do C2C again. I think after the mixed reaction last time, he was probably fighting a losing battle before he even stepped on stage. People weren’t going to be convinced. He’s quite capable of doing his own tours here and playing to people that truly appreciate his talent, and that should be his plan going forward.
1. One Shot
2. Yesterday’s Song
3. Light Me Up
5. Somebody’s Heartbreak
6. Don’t Let Me Forget (with Catherine McGrath)
9. Amazing Grace
10. Dear God / Flashlight
13. Storm Warning
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