Country To Country Music Festival
added: 19 Mar 2013
// gig date: 19 Mar 2013
reviewer: David Spencer
It may have been a cold, damp weekend in March, but the O2 in London felt more like being (at CMA fest) in Nashville on a hot, summer’s day with Country To Country in town for its inaugural festival. The venue certainly looked the part with a sea of cowboy hats and plaid shirts under warm winter jackets. Kristian Bush of Sugarland got the cowboy boots tapping with the first gig of the weekend on the main stage.
It was also his first solo concert, though he gave the performance of a veteran and was rewarded with a well-deserved standing ovation. The Grammy-Award winning Little Big Town kept the momentum going with a fast-paced and often emotional set which had fans dancing in the aisles. But it was country music legends Vince Gill and later Tim McGraw who received the biggest cheers of the night as the sun set on what will surely become a regular event at the O2.
Sunday saw LeAnn Rimes stun the crowd with an emotional mix of ‘spit fire’ from her new album and brutally honest about her life over the last four years, with an epic performance of Borrowed – which the crowd went wild for, reducing Rimes to tears. Aware of her mainstream work, she belted out a solo version of her duet with Ronan Keating and her well known hits from Coyote Ugly and Titanic.
Newly-inducted (October) to the Grand Ole Opry Hall of Fame, Darius Rucker was less cowboy and more-modern country, no Stetson, but in place, a well-worn baseball cap (which at the end, was signed and thrown to a fan) an Avengers T-shirt and trainers. He has huge energy on stage, incorporating his band, allowing their talents to shine through, however, just because you have a fiddle and banjo, doesn’t make it country, think ‘light country’ or ‘easy-listening country’ the steel guitar still gives it the country twang but the lack of banjo and fiddle make you feel country is music is moving away a little bit from its roots. His modern country style – contrasted, and went down well with the Hank Williams Jr rendition of Family Tradition which got even the most-hardened of –non country fans joining in.
Carrie Underwood wrapped up the weekend, with her even more watered down version of country. Her vocals can be shrill but she still delighted the crowd. In essence though she is pop not country. Could it be the cross-pollination? Keith Urban, Lady Antebellum and Taylor Swift have all had singles in both pop and country charts. I don’t think this is the end of old country, it’s just going through a modernisation period.
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