Wow what a day! My day started early catching up with some of the Country family (Country fans are the friendliest!) then it was over to the Town Square stage to catch Logan Mize who kicked off the day in style. First act of the day and the place was packed already, Logan seemed surprised as he played with a big smile on his face and it wasn't too early for some great guitar solos. After a chat with Jimmie Allen who discussed his duet with Abby Anderson, I headed into the press room to catch Chase Rice who teased his setlist. He'd already played by this point at a surprise set in the Country Music Week hub which was a sellout. Then it was time for Runaway June, well two thirds of them, which had me nervous ahead of their performance in the evening as they said Hannah was ill. I dashed off then to catch Sam Palladio on the Town Square stage, another popular act, mind you there were massive queues for every stage! He said it was good to be back home in the UK. He opened with Hello Heartbreak Blues and Adios Old Friend from the TV show Nashville.
Back to the press room where Brett Eldredge was talking about his experiences touring with Taylor Swift and Cam briefly touched on her new album that's coming out soon. Then it was time for the crowds to filter into the main arena for opening act Chase Rice. He opened with On Tonight and it was clear from the off it was going to be a high energy show as he went on to play Gonna Wanna Tonight which concluded with him and his band rocking out together centre stage. Three Chords and the Truth ended similarly with the band taking it in turns to play solos. He said that as a writer he's had a number one but never as an artist but he thought this next song might make it to the top and he broke into a crowd favourite Eyes On You. During Ride he brought on a girl named Keely from the audience, the interaction between the two was funny to watch and it more than likely made Keely's night! He had to play the number one he penned with Florida Georgia Line, Cruise had everyone singing along and was the highlight of his set for me although I liked the song that followed as well Jack Daniels and Jesus!
Over to the spotlight stage where Adam Hambrick was waiting. I was looking forward to seeing him as he has such a great catalogue of songs that he's written for other people. He opened with All You, All Night, All Summer and transitioned smoothly into a couple of lines of Phil Collins In The Air Tonight and back again. He penned How Not To by Dan and Shay and when he asked if there were any fans of theirs in the house there was a large cheer as he began to play it. He concluded with Rocking All Night Long. The great Bob Harris compared again this year and did a sterling job as he introduced Cam. She emerged on the main stage wearing a glittery pink outfit and opened with Diane. Just like last night her voice was flawless. It was good to hear Mayday and the foot stomping Runaway Train which has always been one of my favourites. Then she played one off the as yet unreleased second album, a song she penned with Lori McKenna, Forgetting You When I'm Alone, the melody in the chorus is beautiful and the play on words helps it float off your tongue. She made herself at home bringing a lamp and couch to sing My Mistake the first single she released over here. Again, a great writer for other people she played the song Palace which she penned for Sam Smith. She covered Nothing Breaks Like A Heart which Miley Cyrus sings on and transitioned into perhaps one of the most well known country songs of all time Jolene. She concluded on her biggest hit Burning House.
I was excited to see Abby once again and surprised she didn't sing Make Him Wait. Instead she began with the title track of her EP, I'm Good and played Naked Truth also on the EP which she penned with Jason Deere and Kent Blazy. Then she invited Jimmie Allen on stage to do their cover of Shallow. Abby's vocals were just breathtaking. Then it was time for Brett Eldredge, the crowd were pumped up for his performance and he delivered an upbeat set. The crowd were loud as they sang Something I'm Good At with him as he moved from side to side on the stage. After welcoming the BBC Radio 2 listeners he did a fantastic cover of Crazy Little Thing Called Love, his voice suited it. Then he sang the very emotional Raymond, his first single about his Gran, you could feel the emotion and hear every word, the lyrics are well thought out. He sang Mean to Me which went to number one on the Country Airplay charts and people began to put their phone lights in the air. After Love Someone he played The Reason mashed together with a cover of My Girl. One of the highlights for me was Time Well Spent and I really enjoyed the slide guitar solo at the end.
Runaway June (all three of them) played the spotlight stage then, performing Wild West which makes a nice reference to Jennifer's Granddad John Wayne at the end. Their harmonies were fantastic as they sang their latest single on Country Radio I Can Buy My Own Drinks. then for the main event, Keith opened with a song he released last year Never Comin Down and the party really got started as the majority got to their feet dancing singing and dancing along. Since he hasn't been over for twelve years he went through a lot of his back catalogue and played Days Go By, this was a crowd pleaser for sure! He, like Chase, invited a fan onto the stage, a scottish man named Ralph who was wearing an Urban Army t-shirt and he asked the question we all wanted to ask "What took you so long?" to which he responded with "I'll come back again and make up for lost time tonight."
It was great to finally hear Long Hot Summer live and Keith's guitar solo at the end was epic as he began with a pick and then started to get these tuneful percussive sounds out of the electric guitar, the technique reminding me very much of the film August Rush. His vocals were brilliant on Parallel Line, one of the newer tracks and it was nice to hear some stripped back performances when he played Stupid Boy acoustically. The crowd, some of which had sat down at this point leapt to their feet with a loop when he went into Somebody Like You, a Keith Urban classic. He introduced the band and it was astounding to hear the talent as one of his guitarists, keyboard players and backing vocalists Nathan did a powerful rendition of With or Without You which suited his gritty vocals to a T. Band member Danny did a rendition of Slow Hands whilst Jerry sang Lights Down Low. Keith asked what would happen if there was a power cut at the O2 and as he brought the lights down the crowd began top lift their phone lights up, the arena looked like 20,000 dazzling stars just fell from the sky. If I thought Keith's vocals shone through on Parallel Line it was nothing compared to how they sounded on Blue Aint Your Colour.
He performed Drop Top and a video played along with a backing track of Kassi Ashton who he released the song with, it's a shame she wasn't actually with him though! Then onto a song Sam Hunt co-wrote for him, Cop Car. I'm still undecided whether I like Keith or Sam's version better but in a live setting I'm leaning towards Keith! During The Fighter (and no Carrie wasn't there, only on the video and backing track again) he came over through the crowd to the smaller stage. Here he addressed the crowd at the back who were ecstatic to see him so close up. He continued Fighter and shortly after gave his guitar away to a speechless fan! No worries, there were plenty more where that came from as he headed back to the main stage. He ended on a really high energy number, Wasted Time as confetti canons burst and rained down on the UK Country crowd below. What a show, Keith Urban is the full package, the real deal - incredible voice, fantastic songs and jaw droopingly good guitar skills! (More photos to come soon)