REVIEW: Aaron Watson – Live At The Garage, London

If you’ve seen Aaron Watson live in concert, you’ll probably know exactly what’s coming in this review. What can you say? This is a guy that has truly worked from the ground up, playing thousands of shows on the Texas country circuit for years and years, perfecting his craft. It takes a special performer to build up such a loyal fan base that can propel an independent artist to #1 on the Billboard country albums chart, and that’s exactly what happened last year with ‘The Underdog’. Aaron gives 110% every single night, whether there’s 2 people or 2,000 people in the audience, and you won’t find a nicer guy anywhere in the music industry.

Yes, if you haven’t already guessed, I’m a massive Aaron Watson fan, so the announcement of another UK tour was music to my ears. The London venue of choice this year was the relatively small Garage; Aaron packed the house and it made for a fantastic atmosphere. London gigs always seem to attract plenty of Americans and this one was no different; next to me were 4 or 5 Texan guys who were expectedly rowdy and ready for a party! For Aaron, this must have felt almost like a show back home. Much of the audience knew every word.

British trio Honey Ryder opened the show with a mixture of songs from their ‘Marley’s Chains’ and ‘Born In A Bottle’ albums, and the crowd thoroughly enjoyed their 30-minute set. Lindsay’s vocals were spot on from start to finish, and their repertoire is instantly engaging and memorable (I was humming ‘Mirage’ on the train all the way back to Birmingham!). Other personal highlights were ‘Damn It I’m In Love Again’ with its catchy guitar riff and anthemic chorus and ‘Marley’s Chains’. I heard some people saying that they had attended specifically to see these guys and that was evident by the reaction to every song. Well worth checking out!

Aaron took to the stage just after 9pm, kicking off his high-energy show with the powerful ‘Freight Train’, followed by the barnstorming ‘Real Good Time’ and ‘Summertime Girl’, which will always be staples in Aaron’s set lists. The patriotic ‘Raise Your Bottle’ followed, preceded by the story about his father who is 100% disabled from the Vietnam war. We were also treated to his brilliant cover of John Mayer’s ‘Wildfire’, as well as daughter Jolee Kate’s favourite, ‘Getaway Truck’.

The most special moments, however, came with some of Aaron’s stories behind the songs. He introduced ‘July In Cheyenne’ telling the story of the tragic loss of bull-rider Lane Frost, and how his mother’s outlook inspired him to write such a heartfelt song. My personal favourite ‘Bluebonnets’ was also a surprise inclusion in the set list, written after the loss of Aaron’s daughter Julia Grace. Hearing it live brought a tear to my eye; such a special moment and you can tell just how much that song means to Aaron.

He soon brought the pace back up though with the utterly fantastic ‘Heyday Tonight’, giving the awesome band the opportunity to showcase their skills. As always, fiddle player Damian Green brought one woman to the front of the stage and asked her hold the bow whilst he played. Always an entertaining routine that the crowds love watching. Then, we were introduced to a brand new song from the upcoming ‘Vaquero’ album titled ‘They Don’t Make Em Like They Used To’, a song preaching love and togetherness in a time where everybody seems to behave like enemies. Another superb high-energy offering that fits seamlessly into Aaron’s repertoire, and it’s definitely another fan favourite in the making.

Aaron finished the show with ‘Reckless’, leaving the stage to rapturous applause from the adoring London crowd. For anyone who has seen Aaron before, I’m sure you’ll agree he seems to take it up a notch every single time, and for those who hadn’t seen him before last week, I’m guessing you were completely blown away. If there’s a better live performer (and band) out there, I certainly haven’t seen them. Aaron is the real deal and in truth he deserves to be playing much larger venues. Come back soon Aaron, we love you.

(Photo Credit: Frances Mould)