GIG REVIEW: Old Dominion – Live At The O2 Institute, Birmingham

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What a treat we had earlier this month; not only were Old Dominion on tour, they brought their buddies Walker Hayes and Eric Paslay out with them. Three high-profile acts right on our doorstep, what’s not to like?! The ultimate definition of ‘value for money’. Bear in mind, the week after, the Old Dominion guys took home the award for Group Of The Year at the CMAs. Never take these intimate UK gigs for granted.

Eric Paslay kicked off the evening’s entertainment. Eric is one of those artists (of which there are now many) who seem to have gone a little off-the-radar and aren’t country radio’s flavour of the month. That isn’t a reflection of the man’s talent by any means. He was the ideal act to warm up the crowd, getting us all going with hits from his song writing repertoire such as Jake Owen’s ‘Barefoot Blue Jean Night’ and Eli Young Band’s ‘Even If It Breaks Your Heart’, along with some of his own hits such as ‘Friday Night’ and the utterly brilliant ‘She Don’t Love You’. There’s a warmth and charisma about Eric that draws an audience in, and he went down a storm with the Birmingham crowd. We look forward to welcoming him back to the Midlands, hopefully very soon!

Walker Hayes is an interesting one. It’s fascinating to read some of the social media discussions that went on during the UK tour; his music is divisive to say the least! Personally, I love his fresh brand of RnB/Pop-infused Country but it’s certainly an acquired taste. That being said, he’s the perfect example of how personality and stage presence can have such an impact. Whether you like Walker’s sound or not, he’s one of the most genuine guys in the business and he had the crowd in the palm of his hand from the moment he walked on stage. There were some great singalong moments with ‘You Broke Up With Me’ and his latest single ‘90’s Country’, and he even got everybody in the stalls dancing together to ‘Mind Candy’. His songs are undeniably infectious!

Soon after, Old Dominion came out and kicked off their 21-song set list with their smash hit ‘Song For Another Time’, and O2 Institute really came to life. A room full of people who clearly knew OD’s back catalogue religiously and sang along to every word. The set list was filled with fan favourites from their debut album, including the likes of ‘Wrong Turns’, ‘Said Nobody’ and ‘Beer Can In A Truck Bed’, as well as album cuts from their sophomore record, including ‘Be With Me’, ‘Stars In The City’ and ‘New York At Night’. The thing is, as an outsider, you’d assume that every single song was a #1 hit; they’ve all got that distinctive Old Dominion loveableness – they really are hit machines.

The show was of course filled with genuine hits too, including ‘Written In The Sand’, ‘Save It For A Rainy Day’ and ‘No Such Thing As A Broken Heart’. The ending to the latter was a real stand-out moment, as it triggered a minute-long applause and floor rumble from the enthusiastic Birmingham fans. Guys, you can play at Kenny Chesney stadium shows all you like, but us UK people know how to make some noise!

Album number 3 is shaping up to be another absolute corker too. They recently released the lead single ‘Make It Sweet’ which is quintessentially Old Dominion and is surely destined to top the charts (and sounded incredible live). But it was the other new song, ‘My Heart Is A Bar’, which really grabbed my attention. I can still remember how the song goes and I’ve only heard it once; that’s the sign of an iconic hit in waiting. The hook line “my heart is a bar and I’m closing, I’m closing down” – awesome. Can’t wait to hear the recorded version, which will be on repeat for some time!

Finishing with ‘Snapback’, they cranked up the energy just one more time and left the crowd on a massive high. We’re so lucky in the UK to experience these shows in such intimate venues. These are nights that will live very long in the memory and we might not get too many more opportunities like this; soak in every second. Come back soon guys!

Dan Wharton
@LifeInASong_Dan