The popularity of the Nashville TV show here in the UK is nothing short of astonishing. Having never made its way onto one of the main terrestrial UK channels, it’s built up a fan base of thousands, including a huge non-country following that will support the cast in their droves. Within a few years, ‘Nashville In Concert’ has gone from a theatre tour to something that’s packing out the biggest venues up and down the UK. For me, there’s an element of frustration with this; so many immense talents are struggling to fill tiny venues yet here are thousands of people appreciating exactly the same genre. That being said, it’s been a wonderful platform for spreading the word and introducing the wider world to the modern form of country music and the magic of Nashville itself.
All five cast members took the stage at the beginning for a rendition of Will Hoge’s ‘Even If It Breaks Your Heart’, the first song ever to be played on the TV show, which got a rousing reception from the adoring Birmingham fans. Made famous by Eli Young Band, the track is an anthemic country standard which was simply born to be played in arenas. After that, it was the familiar format of cast members taking it in turns to do two or three songs, with a few collaborations thrown in along the way.
Jonathan Jackson was the highlight of the show for me. He’s already established himself as an accomplished live performer with his own rock band ‘E Nation’, and this guy is destined for future stardom away from the TV show in his own right. He comes across as a very humble, rather quiet guy on stage, but when he started effortlessly belting out his heavy material, he absolutely raised the roof off the place. The real stand-out moment was his performance of the timeless classic ‘Unchained Melody’, which stunned me a couple of years ago when he performed it at the Opry; it was a real treat to hear it live. Jonathan absolutely nailed it, including the ridiculously high notes. He’s such a versatile performer and he had the crowd in the palm of his hand all night.
Other personal highlights included Sam Palladio’s performance of ‘Wake Me Up In Nashville’, which in my opinion was the best song of the night. It wouldn’t be Nashville In Concert without that one, would it?! It’s always an extra special one for him to perform in Birmingham too with his Midlands roots, and that always strengthens the bond between him and the Birmingham crowds.
Clare Bowen was her usual eccentric self too; she’s the ultimate definition of stage presence! It was a shame we didn’t get a Scarlett and Gunnar duet, but she wowed the crowd anyway with a few fan favourites as well as a taster of her new album. The new song was ‘Tide Rolls In’, written with husband Brandon, which wasn’t particularly to my taste due to its repetitive nature but it’s certainly an earworm! Highlights of hers included a simply stunning rendition of ‘Black Roses’ which provoked a minute-long standing ovation, as well as ‘When The Right One Comes Along’ which is enough to break down the toughest of human beings!
Charles Esten, as always, was the fan favourite right from the start and his contingent of female fans were in full voice as per usual! On more than one occasion, he made his way out into the crowd to visit the folks towards the back; he just loves the interaction and the Nashville fans sure love him, too. ‘He Ain’t Me’ seems to have become a familiar addition to the set list, a track he wishes he’d performed as Deacon on the show after Rayna tied the knot with Luke Wheeler. That one’s a real rocker which always has the crowd up on their feet, and it certainly cranked up the energy. It was also great to see him joined on stage by Clare for ‘Borrow My Heart’, a great Nashville classic.
Chris Carmack brought the energy too with his immense confidence and stage presence. One of the first things he said was “I’m gonna play the hits!” and that’s exactly what he did, including Will Lexington’s anthem ‘What If I Was Willing’ as well as ‘Baby I’m On It’ from Season 3, a track which is just begging to be played on country radio! I’m sure we’ll be hearing a lot more from Chris post-Nashville; he’s already released an EP of his own and he’s more than capable of breaking out in his own right.
Of course, we couldn’t leave without an encore of ‘A Life That’s Good’ to close the show, with the thousands in attendance singing along beautifully to every single word. These moments epitomise the magic of the TV show and indeed, the magic of country music. It was a thoroughly enjoyable night which would have cleansed any soul…man I love this genre!
‘The Music Of Nashville: Season 6, Vol 1’ and the Greatest Hits compilation across seasons 1-5 are available now!