Approaching the venue nearly 50 minutes before doors opening, there was already a large queue snaking its way up Upper Street. Such was the impact of her appearances at C2C that she went from being relatively unknown to National Treasure seemingly overnight. Her Sunday morning NYLon set at C2C was only three songs yet it still earned a standing ovation. Tonight the pre show talk is of rowdy Luke Combs fans inconsiderately talking throughout her support slots earlier in the week however tonight she is the headliner and expectations are high for a better behaved audience. This show was rescheduled and moved from Omeara to the much large Islington Assembly Halls, the question to be answered was whether one woman and a guitar could hold the attention of a large expectant crowd for ninety minutes or so.?
The answer was delivered within about 5 seconds of Ashley walking stage, as a voice from the circle piped up "Welcome Home!". The stage could not have been set simpler, just a small table with a black cloth, 2 bottles of water, a couple of glasses of something stronger and a miniscule piece of paper with some notes of a set list on it. The show eventually kicked off with "Rattlesnake Preacher" and by the end of the second song "Radioland" the audience had firmly proved themselves able to take the place of any backing band, leading to her finishing the song with a broad grin.
In many ways Ashley McBryde defies the norm that is currently being pushed on the public, she may not have the glitz or glamour of a Carrie or a Miranda but what she does have is a special empathy with her audience so that when she sings "Andy ( I Can't Live Without You)" although the lyrics are specifically hers, almost everyone in the audience is giving their partner a knowing look at whichever line applied to them. She also has an extremely liberating effect, with men singing full throated that "You leave your whiskers in the sink!". When she sings "I miss that man and i always will" on "Bible and a .44" about her Dad, she taps into a universal feeling and many would have sung along thinking of their own parent, and agreed "They just don't make them like the no more"
Determined to give the large crowd something special there was a set list diversion on the whim of a call out from the crowd for "Better On The Water" and we had covers of Guy Clark and John Prine songs with some excellent between song banter as well as Margaret Durante's "Whiskey & A Gun" and Travis Meadows "Good Country People" that will have got people heading to their streaming services for the originals.
The other element of her songs that British people find endearing is success for the underdog and the put upon, which is why "Fat and Famous", "A Little Dive Bar in Dahlonega" and of course "Girl Going Nowhere" hit home and resonate so well with us. In the end it was "American Scandal" that closed the main set to a deafening round of applause, with Ashley clearly moved by the response.
Having noted earlier that the Halls reminded her of a church , the first encore was "Amazing Grace" and could not have been more fitting had it been but a few yards up the road at the Union Chapel.
"Luckiest SOB" followed, with the final moments left for the ubiquitous "Girl Going Nowhere" providing a real goosebump moment on the night as she played the opening chords. In the end it was one woman, a guitar and a crowd who provided the entertainment and all went home happy.
The support for the night, personally chosen by Ashley apparently, was Ryan O'Reilly, originally from Winchester but now based out of Germany. He had a line in very intense wordy songs as opposed to his stage manner where he didn't say a word for the opening three songs. The only time he broke character was for a "lighthearted" song about looking at your ex's Facebook profile and finding faults with her new partner.
On first listen many of the songs did not seem to paint the singer in a good light, "You're Going To Hate Me In The End" seemed to be about a failed German romance, although this was one of the better songs on the night. It's a big room to hold the audiences attention and he just about timed it right.