The meteoric rise of Midland is seriously impressive. A main stage set at C2C and it was lift-off for these guys. 9 months down the line, here they were again, this time packing out venues on a sold-out tour all across the UK. Fairly large capacity venues too, including Shepherd’s Bush Empire. We were lucky enough to catch them at the O2 Institute2 in Birmingham, a venue we’d previously seen the likes of Dan + Shay and Brothers Osborne play. Cowboy hats and denim at the ready, we were in for a really fun evening of entertainment from 3 guys who sure know how to work a crowd.
What you see is what you get with Midland. Yes, it’s cheesy. Yes, they play on the stereotypes. And I’m sure we’ve all seen the ‘authenticity’ debate surrounding them. You know what, who cares? Good music is good music, and their ‘On The Rocks’ album was a damn fine collection of top quality material which makes for a fantastic live show. Having said that, the set list only utilised around half of the album, which surprised me for an act with such a limited amount of original material.
Right from the start, with ‘Check Cashin’ Country’, they had the audience in the palms of their hands with their ultra-cool stage presence. Mark Wystrach has one hell of a voice by the way and sounded terrific throughout the night. ‘Burn Out’ and ‘Electric Rodeo’ followed, 2 of the stand-out tracks from their debut release. The throwback vibe that dominates their sound just transports you right into an old honky-tonk, whether you’re hearing it in Texas or, indeed, Digbeth!
A lot of covers were thrown in along the way, which doesn’t really matter to me as long as you can do them justice, which is exactly what the guys did. I adore their version of Springsteen’s ‘Tougher Than The Rest’, which they’ve totally transformed into a traditional country Midland-esque style. It was great to hear Jerry Reed’s ‘East Bound And Down’ again, too, after their performance at the CMA Awards which seemed to be a universal stand-out memory for many in attendance that night in Nashville. We also had The Allman Brothers’ ‘Midnight Rider’ and The Rolling Stones’ ‘Miss You’; they certainly showcase some diversity!
Mark, Jess and Cam have been hard at work in the studio recently, working on their highly-anticipated sophomore record, and they treated us to a taste of the new material with ‘21st Century Honky Tonk Band’. As the title suggests, it’s a quirky summation of their image and musical output; a big statement of defiance and a big ‘F You’ to all those questioning their authenticity. With a typically infectious melody, it’s got all the makings of another big fan favourite and Midland classic in years to come.
‘Drinkin’ Problem’ was of course a highlight of the night, which got the Birmingham crowd in full voice, along with the undeniably catchy ‘Make A Little’ and ‘Altitude Adjustment’ which cranked up the atmosphere as the evening drew to a conclusion. However, my favourite moment was their rendition of ‘Wicked Game’ to close the show; it was just beautifully atmospheric and so well delivered, vocally. An inspired choice which showcased their raw ability, it was one of the best covers I’ve seen live.
They promised us they’d be back in 2019 – let’s hope we’ve made ourselves a regular tour stop on their calendar!