GIG REVIEW: Luke Combs – Live At The O2 Ritz, Manchester (Support – Ashley McBryde)

The fifth and final night of the UK Tour. Playing to a sold out, rowdy crowd at the O2 Ritz Manchester… there were tour pranks, snapped strings, acapella renditions and a dang good time had by all!

Okay, so… let me just start by admitting here that I was not familiar with Ashley’s backstory or much of her music at all. I am also going to admit, that after a super long ass day of moving, I wasn’t too bothered if I missed her set ahead of Luke Combs. I apologise for this, but what follows will hopefully make up for it (Sorry Ash!). I soon changed my bloody tune!!!!!

ASHLEY MCBRYDE IS INCREDIBLE! What an amazing performer, incredible voice and the sweetest heart. I cannot believe that I would have even considered missing a single song of hers! Girl, you have gained a new fan for life and I am currently downloading everything you have ever released!

From the second she walked out on to the stage, just her and an acoustic guitar… the audience were wild. She hadn’t played a single note and the applause, foot stomping and whistles were deafening. She had them from her entrance, right up until the moment she took her bow and laid that guitar down. Captivating, heart wrenching, funny and even tear jerking (yes, I cried). She held her own up there, told jokes, little stories behind the music and even powered out Mercedes Benz (Joplin) while her guitar was re-strung.

And… all whilst trying to recover from a travel induced chesty sickness. What a powerhouse. Honestly, I cannot wait to see her again. What an absolute gem and the perfect opener for Luke. In all fairness, I feel like I was treated to a double headline show, she was just that good.

I’ve been lucky enough to see Luke Combs live several times, both here in the UK and also over in the US. What a guy. If you’re out to party, you don’t want to miss this show. He received exactly the same reception as Ashley and by gosh did he deliver. Playing an array of both old and new material, hits and fan favourites, the atmosphere was electric!

He burst onto stage and a cup of beer was thrown and the spray was lit up by burning orange lights and the crowd went wild. Opening with Beer Never Broke My Heart and following it with Honky Tonk Highway… I was in my element.

People talking were being shushed left, right and centre… and rightly so! There was barely a mobile phone to be seen overhead. The audience were well and truly engrossed by Combs’ performance. High energy, not a single vocal fault and a dang party from beginning to end!

Luke, as always, introduces his band as ‘much more talented than he will ever be’. Leading into a cover of the Eagles’ Take It Easy and then an on stage jam, spotlighting each member of the incredibly talented band. At the end of which, Ashley McBryde comes back out unexpectedly and proposes to guitarist Tyler. Laughter erupted, as well as some whispers through the crowd. Luke announced it was an “end of tour prank!”. We don’t really have them here, but US Country artists love them!

The humility that comes from this man keeps his fans in complete awe. He’s not only kind and respectful, but the biggest fan of his own band and tour mate Ashley.

Luke is one of those performers, that makes 90 minutes seem like 10. His performance hit every single emotion that I have and I’m sure anyone else in that room would have agreed with me. He performed his last UK show with the same gumpshun you’d expect on the first night of tour. Everything he had was left out there on that stage. Drawing the night to a close, he’d saved Hurricane and stood back from the mic and let the fans sing it back to him. He genuinely looked so thankful and there was not one person in there not singing.

I walked out of that gig on one heck of a high, totally sober I might add… and have not yet come down. It’s not very often that you can say that you have been to a show that has completely captivated you from the opening act, until the last headline song.

Luke, my friend, hurry back.

Katie Hutchinson