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Maren Morris / Ryan Hurd Shepherds Bush Empire

 

If you use social media as your bellwether you may be forgiven for overlooking this gig, lost as it seemed to be amidst the noise surrounding recent tours for Thomas Rhett/Old Dominion and Brothers Osborne/Cadillac Three.  Indeed, this was a concert that had hardly any pre-gig discussion, there didn’t seem to be a need to queue outside from 9am to ensure you got a good space, there wasn’t even much buzz about a pre-gig meet-up.  Does that mean this was going to be a bad gig? A poorly attended gig? A bit of a damp squib? Thankfully it was none of those things.  Maybe that was down to the crowd themselves.  This was another sold out show at SBE but unlike the last one I attended there, there were no queuing issues (20 minutes at most), you could get around the venue relatively easily, although it did get more crowded later, you could even get served at the bar, the merch was reasonably priced and the atmosphere throughout was really friendly.

The opening act of the night was Ryan Hurd (aka Maren’s boyfriend).  Ryan doesn’t have a great deal of music online to prepare you for what to expect, but if you like your country music a little bit Thomas Rhett like then you’re probably aiming in the right direction. He certainly brought an energy to the stage that got the crowd warmed up and by the time he got around to singing his co-write for Lady Antebellum, "You Look Good", he had the crowd singing along.  His best known song, "Love in a Bar", is a slower affair but none the worse for that and unsurprisingly tells the story of meeting a certain person…

Some may have chosen to miss this tour based on a perceived lacklustre performance at C2C, but it’s worth remembering that a Headline show is a very different animal to being 2nd or 3rd act on a Festival stage.  Thankfully Maren chose to dispense with the (frankly awful) gospel singers this time around and focussed her attention on her pop-tinged country styled songs.  From the opening notes of "Sugar" it was clear that the crowd were here to party, and Maren wasn’t going to disappoint.  Compared to Ryan, who was pretty easy to see, Maren did have a tendency to disappear behind the heads in the crowd, but it’s hardly her fault that she’s so tiny!  I also thought that she might make herself at home, but the trench coat she was wearing stayed on resolutely throughout.  Picking a Bonnie Rait style cover of John Prine’s "Angel From Montgomery" early in her set, set the tone to move on to her self-confessed favourite "I Could Use A Love Song".  We then got the first listen of new song "Flavour" (or "Flavor" as I imagine it will be spelt in the US) before she brought Ryan back on stage for "I Wish I Was".  Maren managed to fill her set with most of the tracks from "Hero", particular crowd favourite "80’s Mercedes" was followed by the even better "Rich".  To hear the entire SBE crowd singing the chorus back to her was clearly a little unexpected but very well received.  Closing out the main show with the anthemic "My Church" kept the energy high and the crowd buzzing.  Coming back out with what would usually be the final song "Second Wind" was a great way to draw the set to a close.  Then to a hushed audience she proceeded to relate a little of the background to and story behind her final song "Dear Hate". Dedicated to the victims of the Las Vegas shooting, with all song proceeds donated, this was a bittersweet way to end a top class show.  Social media may have been quiet about this show, but it doesn’t mean they were right. Maybe Maren fans just don’t feel the need to shout about it quite so much…

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