27 year old Maren Morris has enjoyed great success in the past couple of years since she released the smash hit My Church back in early 2016. Though the grammy award winning song was the first time we were really hearing Maren Morris’ name in the media, Maren had been self releasing music since 2007 and had had success in Nashville writing songs for other artists such as Kelly Clarkson who put Second Wind on her Piece by Piece album and Tim McGraw who cut Last Turn Home which was co-written by Morris also. And it was one of her fellow writers on this song that she fell in love with, Ryan Hurd who opened for her on her Hero tour which came to Manchester’s O2 Ritz last night.
Hurd opened the show with a high energy set featuring songs such as We Do Us which was his debut single off his EP which was released earlier this year. The song has received over 2 million streams on spotify and it proved quite popular with the Manchester crowd many of whom knew the words and sang along. My favourite of his set was the slightly rockier Half Hoping. And like Maren, Ryan began his career writing for other artists so after he’d played Michigan a song about where he grew up, Hurd sang Last Turn Home which he co-wrote with Maren and then playing You Look Good which was a hit for Lady Antebellum back in January of this year. Then he sang his current single Love in a Bar which he explained was the story of how he and Maren got together and this is his current single. He closed his set with City Girl. It was a great high energy performance and demonstrated his songwriting ability as well as his ability to entertain and engage a new crowd.
Then it was time for the main show, Maren Morris came out on stage in a white and red striped dress and opened the show with Sugar, the crowd sang along from the offset. She walked up and down the stage belting the chorus out. She easily glided into the next song another off her album Hero, Just Another Thing written by Morris, Matt Dragstrem and Shane McAnally. Maren put a couple of covers and new songs in her set as well including Angel From Montgomery originally by John Prine, Maren’s version was really beautiful and in keeping with her style. Her vocals really suited it as well. Then Maren played my favourite song off her debut album and told the story behind it. I Could Use A Love Song came about after the album was pretty much finished, Morris and her co-writers were not really in the mood for writing so went for a drink and got talking about the album which Maren said did not really have any love songs on it to which her co-writers replied “so you could use a love song?” Throughout the night Maren’s vocals were flawless, especially in this song.
Then she asked if she could play a new song and launched into Flavour which had some great melodies both in the verses and chorus. The song was in keeping with Maren’s Country Pop style. I liked the middle 8 lyrics, they actually reminded me of the Dixie Chicks controversy when she says “Shut up and sing, hell no I won’t”. Then Maren invited Ryan Hurd back on the stage who co-wrote this next song with her and Natalie Hemby, I Wish I Was came next. They demonstrated that not only do the pair write well together they also perform well together and their voices blended beautifully in the chorus. This was followed by one of the tracks on the deluxe version of Hero, Company You Keep, this song went down well with the crowd. It appeared that they were experiencing a few technical difficulties on stage so Maren paused for a moment and took time to tell us a story behind her next song Once which she doesn’t usually have chance to tell. She told us about a break up and how she went all the way to LA and still managed to bump into her ex’s mum who comes from Texas! This is the song she sung at the grammy’s last year and wow does this song really show off this girls vocal abilities!
Then Maren stepped it up a gear and the whole crowd joined in for 80s Mercedes as they had their hands in the air and sang the catchy Ohs at the top of their voices. She kept the level up for Rich and held the mic out for the crowd to sing the chorus and they happily obliged. Maren then did another cover of Kesha’s Hymn, once again she made it her own and wouldn’t have sounded too out of place on one of her own albums. This led on nicely to the song that first propelled Maren to stardom, as Maren announced she was going to “take the Manchester crowd to church” there was a huge roar and she launched into My Church. Again the crowd was in full voice, clapping and dancing along. This is another song which demonstrates Maren’s vocal abilities and when the band drops back slightly in the last chorus to give her vocals space you can really hear the power in her voice. And she continued to show off her flawless vocal range when she did a mash up of Second Wind which was on both her album and Kelly Clarkson’s and Halo by Beyonce’. She concluded the show with a very emotional performance of Dear Hate which Maren released in the aftermath of the Las Vegas shooting and before she sang she spoke of the events that happened in May in Manchester and of the events in Las Vegas and how people in the meet and greet had spoken of being in that crowd. Her message was that music is supposed to heal. Then she played Dear Hate as people put their phone lights in the air, it was a beautiful way to finish what was a fantastic show.