So I’m going to be honest with this blog, I was very new to Aaron Watson before I got invited along to his Manchester gig. In two minds whether to go or not, I decided to brave the cold (it was -2 when I left mine!) and boy am I glad I did. With a fabulous homegrown Country band opening up for Watson it was sure to be a wonderful night where the two countries and cultures could come together in Country music and showcase their own experiences through storytelling lyrics. I was already quite familiar with support act, Honey Ryder, having seen them perform on a number of occasions and they have quickly become one of my favourite UK Country acts. So without further ado I’ll tell you how the night panned out and deliver my verdict on the Texas born singer-songwriter.
Honey Ryder took to the stage just after 8 opening with 2012 single You Can’t Say That. From the get go it was a high energy performance, the bassist who I don’t recall seeing before, was really getting into the music, you could see it in his facial expressions that he was enjoying himself. Midway through the set they played my favourite song of theirs, Marley’s Chains and they got the audience involved successfully. I love the melodies throughout that song and they do become very effective when you have a full audience tunefully singing along. They played a new song, Say You Love Me which boasted a Country Pop chorus that was easy for the audience to pick up after hearing it once. They concluded their seven song set with Worlds Away off their album Marley’s Chains. The crowd seemed to warm to Honey Ryder pretty quickly and it’s no surprise really, over time I see them they demonstrate their professionalism on and off stage, they’re relaxed up there, they get into their music showing they’re passionate about what they write, Lyndsay communicates well with the crowd between songs and they enjoy meeting fans old and new after they’ve played.
Then for the main event, Aaron Watson’s band stepped out on stage and the sound effect of a train rumbled around the room and silenced the crowd. Then, kitted out in a tight t-shirt, his cowboy hat and cowboy boots, hidden slightly under those jeans, Aaron Watson appeared and the crowd roared at the sight of him and the realisation of what song he was about to play, Freight Train. I instantly knew this was going to be a high energy performance by the texan as he played one of my favourite songs of his. In the instrumental breaks he continued to strum his guitar and posed for selfies with fans to the left of the stage. He maintained the high energy and big grin as he played Summertime Girl off the album Real Good time. And everyone in the room was having a real good time, dancing and singing along. Then Aaron took it down a level and began talking to the crowd, telling us all about his Dad, a Vietnam war veteran who got badly injured whilst fighting for his Country. He dedicated the next song to veterans all over who’ve risked their lives for their countries. He began Raise Your Bottle and held his guitar in the air throughout the chorus’ to which the crowd responded by raising their glasses and their hands.
This wasn’t the only occasion that Watson took the time to address the audience, he talked about the heartbreak he felt losing his daughter and how hard he found it writing and performing again after that. Then he told us the story of champion bull rider Lane Frost who died in the arena and the words his mum had said after his death which had struck a chord with Aaron and inspired the song July in Cheyenne, he spoke of the moment he got to play the song at a rodeo in front of 20,000 people but most importantly Lane Frost’s Mum and Dad. It was an emotional moment as he broke into the song and you could tell he still felt every word as he sang it. He chatted about his daughter wanting to learn Taylor Swift songs and though some members of the crowd seemed to lose focus and chat, I enjoyed these moments, I really felt like I knew this guy by the end of the night. He, like Honey Ryder, played a new song off his upcoming album, Outta Style was an upbeat number that saw the crowd dancing and swaying to the beat. One of my favourite songs of the night was the one he wrote for his wife, That Look which he played on his Opry Debut back in 2015.
Aaron Watson had had a request before the show from a boy at the front, his mum’s favourite song was Off the Record and Watson happily played the song for her, remarking that it was an old one and he hoped he remembered it right. Then he asked if anyone had any requests, there were lots of shouts from the crowd and Aaron picked out Fence Post, a song which reminded me of a Johnny Cash song. There were various points throughout the night where I found myself getting lost in the music, I’d close my eyes and sway and feel every note and every word. The band were tight, the skill and knowledge of their instruments was exceptional and this was displayed towards the end of the night when Watson invited each of them to show off a little bit. The guitarist savoured this moment and demonstrated his skills moving up and down the fretboard. The fiddle player though blew everyone away, he put his fiddle behind his back and still managed to play the right notes flawlessly. He invited the lady who had requested Off The Record to hold his bow and he held the fiddle with both hands and moved it along the bow at an exceptional speed.
Aaron said he’d come out at the end to take photos and sign things for his fans, unfortunately for me I had a bus to catch and a long journey home so missed out on this. However it was a lovely thing to do especially since his set was quite long and he must have been exhausted by the end of it. It was a fantastic night though and one that opened my eyes a little bit to a different side of Country music. In just one evening Aaron Watson has become one of my favourite artists, his charm, his humour, his on stage presence and energy, his views and morals which he sticks by and portrays in his songs and which have led him to success, but most of all his music and artistry which really does come from the heart.