Gig Reviews

GIG REVIEW: Midland – Live At O2 Institute, Birmingham, UK

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Fourth time’s a charm! This show had quite literally been years in the making, with postponements due partly to the birth of lead man Mark Wystrach’s child, and also the dreaded C word. Unfortunately, that C word meant that Jess Carson’s UK trip had to be cut short, as he’s been struggling with long effects since testing positive a few months back. In his place was East Texan, Jonathan Terrell, who opened up the show in style and filled in for Jess like a true professional.

The set list consisted of a fine mixture of oldies from the 2017 On The Rocks album, as well as a selection from 2019’s Let It Roll and a sprinkling of new material from their latest collection, The Last Resort. It has to be said that the early material is quite simply iconic; it has that added magic to it that can light up a crowd with just a few chords. The likes of ‘Electric Rodeo,’ which opened the show, ‘Burn Out’ and ‘Out Of Sight’ are a showcase of traditional Country at its most effective.

Some of the latest material has the potential to reach that status, too, with some support from Country radio. ‘Adios Cowboy’ and the toe-tapping ‘Two To Two Step’ transformed the Institute into a Texas honky-tonk, and the crowd were absolutely lapping up every moment. A special mention for the gorgeous ‘And Then Some,’ too, which is one of the trio’s finest releases to date and should become a staple in their set lists for years to come. Warm and enticing with huge mainstream appeal.

The one aspect that let the show down a little was the quality of the lighting and sound. Having been to many Country gigs at the Institute, this was one of the most disappointing, certainly sound-wise, as the mix just wasn’t right from start to finish. Mark’s vocal was horrendously drowned out to the extent where, if you didn’t know the songs beforehand, you wouldn’t have understood a word. A real shame for such a top quality vocalist.

Back to the positives – the choice of covers was inspired. A rendition of Garth’s “Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old)” was always going to be a crowd-pleaser, along with “Tougher Than The Rest,” which they’ve totally made their own, and Jerry Reed’s “East Bound And Down,” which gives the band an opportunity to truly let loose and is such a fun moment in their live shows. Following the encore, they even played “Sweet Caroline” on the speakers, which led to what can only be described as an eruption of joy. They’ve really honed in on what makes the fans happy, and they’ve now got a very well-rounded show with lots of great material.

Overall, a thoroughly enjoyable night watching the Gator Boys do what they do best. Smooth, ultra-cool, throwback Country that you could listen to for hours. Let’s not leave it another four years until we do it again – what do you say, boys?

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