Well Country Music Week is well and truly underway for me, it started on Saturday in Manchester at The Bridgewater Hall when The Adelaides opened up for Charles Esten. From what I’d heard of the girls in the past I will be honest, I wasn’t excited but I promised to give them a fair chance this time and I’m glad I did. Two well known country covers punctuated a mainly original set. My Church by Maren Morris sounded sublime with the girls harmonies whilst Kelsea Ballerini’s Miss Me More got the crowd bopping along. They had some well written original tracks in there, especially their final track Good Good Love which had some nice and easy crowd participation parts to it and everyone must have been enjoying it as much as me as they all joined in. My only slight criticism would be that with this stripped back set up with just the two acoustic guitars it would be nice for them to maximise the potential by having two separate guitar parts instead of them both playing a similar if not the same thing but all in all, a very enjoyable set with fantastic vocals!
To the main event! The last time I saw Charles Esten was when he ventured over as part of the Nashville cast tour. I was excited to see what kind of balance he would achieve in his set from his originals and songs from the TV show. Dressed all in black with a very smart waist coat and a beaming smile, Chip (as he’s sometimes called) came on stage with a fiery number to start Buckle Up which saw him jumping around right from the start. He talked about the last season of Nashville and of being put in writers rooms to try and write for their characters. He spoke of the talented Mr Charlie Worsham before playing the song they’d successfully written and pitched, Looking For The Light. One song that stood out to me was Through The Blue, such a well written chorus. The night and the crowd really got going though when Charles asked The Adelaides to join him for a number of songs. They did a beautiful rendition of Undermine, a song written by Kacey Musgraves and Trent Dabbs (of Sugar and the Hi Lows) for the show Nashville in which Charles’ character Deacon Clayborne sung it with Hayden Panettiere’s character Juliet Barnes.
They stayed on for a couple more songs, adding their beautiful harmonies, breathing new life into some of these songs that could quite easily have died off with the end of the show. Charles had thought it out well who his support act would be so that he could perform some of his favourites from the show. He spoke of Lennon and Maisy Stella who played his on screen children and the bond the whole cast had built and of how the tears were real when they acted out Rayna’s final scenes. It was at this point that together with The Adelaides he performed the song Sanctuary, a beautiful ballad off the show. As The Adelaides left the stage so did Esten’s band who had been solid throughout. His acoustic set showcased his songwriting abilities at their core but the stripped down set didn’t lose the crowd especially not since some of them had just been invited up on stage. I Still Do was a fun little number about drinking, smoking and loving someone and the crowd went wild for it. It showcased Charles’ sense of humour and he picked up on the crowds enthusiasm. He went on to acknowledge the great artists that had come from the UK and played a series of covers including Only You which was his wedding song. Perhaps the highlight though was Charles’ version of Royals by Lorde in which he changed the lyrics to discuss aspects of the TV show Nashville and our feelings about it’s ending, again it was full of humour and had the audience roaring with laughter.
A couple of new songs really got the crowd going, Baby, Kid, Teen, Man, Old Man, Gone which sung a lot better than it reads and Nashvillionaire which seemed to incorporate a bit of Pop, Rock and RnB into it’s Country roots. He concluded his main set on what appeared to be another fan favourite, He Ain’t Me which got people up on their feet and not for the first time that night. An encore was inevitable, all night he’d sung flawlessly, made us laugh, made some cry and had the moves and energy to make it the full package. Another Nashville favourite Good rain or Jesus started the encore before Charles touched the hearts of Mancunians by singing a cover of Don’t Look Back in Anger, it felt like a personal touch! Then he welcomed back The Adelaides as fans put their phone lights in the air for A Life That’s Good. What a fantastic and varied show from a true singer, songwriter and performer! He’s set the bar high for the rest of the shows at Country Music Week that’s for sure!