Well time has flown by this weekend, I can't beleive it's over for another year! But what a weekend it's been and what an incredible final day. My day began watching Kerri Watt finish her set on the Town Square stage, there was quite a sleepy crowd but a sizeable crowd none the less, similarly on the Big Entrance stage British group Remember Monday had drawn a large crowd and were showing off their harmonies as I passed through. Then I headed into the indigo for the BBC Radio 2 Stage where Lainey Wilson was about to start. After seeing her in the smaller Country Music Week Hub the day before, with excellent stage presence, I was keen to see how she'd do in this larger venue and it suited her to a T as she worked the stage and belted out those vocals. Abby Anderson followed her again, it was her birthday and she was so excited she mixed up her setlist and dropped her in ear monitors but the crowd loved her regardless due to her energy and authenticity. Then I headed over to the Town Square to catch Fairground Saints, it was that full that I could hear them but couldn't see them and the crowd stuck around for Lauren Jenkins. The quality on the spotlight and pop up stages this year has been phenomenal and we've seen lots of females with strong, powerful vocals owning the stage.
Over in the press room Drake White talked about how tumultuous the music industry is and Jimmie Allen gave advice on starting out in music. Lyle Lovett was very talkative with the press and spoke about the first time he was over in England back in the 80's. I also had the pleasure of talking to Nikki Bedi from the BBC World Service about C2C and the growth of Country in the UK. Then on to the main arena where Drake White and the Big Fire were opening the show. The majority of his set was uptempo, I'd heard about his energetic shows but this was my first time seeing him, he didn't disappoint. It was only during Heartbeat, one of my favourites of his that I looked around and realised for an opening act at C2C there were quite a number of people on their feet singing along sporting the t-shirt! Story seemed to be a fan favourite along with his most popular song Making Me Look Good Again. He ended on a high as he covered Fat Bottomed Girls.
Runaway June came on then to announce the first spotlight stage artist of the night Caroline Jones, another powerful female vocalist she opened with Worth The Wait. My highlight of the night though was Ashley McBryde who came on stage to open with Living Next to Leroy followed by the rockier El Dorado the latter of which in particular suited this arena setting. She interacted well with the crowd as she told the stories behind the songs with a little humour. During American Scandal it really hit me how spectacular her vocals are, they just seemed to soar in the arena, they were flawless. But it was Fat and Famous to my surprise that was an instant fan favourite. She had stripped it down to just her and her guitar at this point before bringing a few of us to tears playing Girl Going Nowhere. Before hand she said "don't let me hear that you gave up on your dreams." She followed this with Rattlesnake Preacher and her guitarist was brilliant the way he played the slide on that guitar, I was impressed. A Little Dive Bar in Dahlonega not only showed off her vocals but her lyrics as well as I've always thought they stood out in that song. She ended on Tired of Being Happy. She was genuinely overwhelmed by the reaction from the arena in potentially the biggest show she's ever played.
The Wandering Hearts took to the spotlight stage then as they played Burning Bridges and my favourite Devil, again their harmonies won over the crowd. Then it was time for Lyle Lovett, I was keen to learn more about this artist through his music as I didn't know much of his back catalogue which spans decades. Highlights for me include Thing Called Love, My Baby Don't Tolerate and If I Had a Boat. His band were incredible, they all looked the part too dressing in smart suits. In the press room he talked about how he plans his set around his band and what showcases them as musicians and showcase he did. His backing vocalist Francine brought a little Jazz and Soul to the performance as Lyle gave her centre stage. But the two moments to note are Here I Am with all the talking in the verses and then an epic chorus and the Townes Van Zandt cover he concluded on where the band were really let loose to explore and show off their skills. Their were mixed reactions from the C2C crowd, musically it was brilliant but i wonder if it was the wrong crowd or venue for him or wether it was very different from and hard to follow Ashley's set.
Jimmie Allen opened with American Heartbreaker and the had us all chucking when telling us about the next song Make Me Want To as he said about his vulnerable and sensitive side how he wears "small pants and goes to disney 8 times a year." Then for the main event Chris Stapleton. He went with the approach of less is more although we could have done with slightly more lighting to see him! Nobody to Blame had people on their feet again singing along. I have seen him before and like most was astounded by his voice however I never realised what an excellent guitarist he is. Millionaire one of my favourite songs off the new record came next followed by Fire Away which was wonderful to listen to his voice especially in the chorus. However since there was just him, Morgane his wife on backing vocals, a bass player and drummer I felt there was something missing, on the record there is a beautiful slide or steel guitar which is quite prominent and with this set up that wasn't achievable live, I think he should have brought an extra guitarist.
He rarely addressed the audience and spent most of the time focusing on his heavily pregnant wife but the crowd didn't seem to mind. Acoustically he played Whiskey and You. The tear jerker Either Way followed. It was quite a relaxed set for a headliner but as I say the crowd responded well to this. Broken Halos appeared to be a fan favourite as much of the audience participated. I think both Chris and Ashley had a little trouble with their guitars going out of tune as they were frequently seen tuning in between songs and Chris stopped mid-song to tune. Traveller and Parachute were sung quite loudly by the C2C attendees but the high point of his set was yet to come. He introduced the band by singing their names and stories to the tune of Tennessee Whisky before ending his set on that song. However the crowd wanted more and luckily he had one prepared as he played Sometimes I Cry another song that shows off his unique vocals. What a great end to a perfect weekend!
More pictures to follow, plus interviews and press conferences! Don't forget tickets for next year go on sale on Friday!