A star studded line up tonight, raising funds for cancer research, under the banner “One More Shot”. This was a little taster for the yearly 3 day event held a few days later in Birmingham.
Opening the evening, direct from Portland, Oregon, was Matt Lande, who describes himself as an alternative artist with quite a diverse underground following due to his experimental music nature! With just an acoustic guitar, there wasn’t much experimentation on show tonight. In his two song set however, there were indications of his heavy rock based style and powerful vocal performance, and some serious guitar work on the second song. An excellent start to the evening.
After a very short break, Gary Quinn returning to London for the second time in recent weeks took to the stage to play a short three song set. Beginning with the familiar fan favourite “Body Language” then the Steve Warriner collaboration “Warm Dark Of Night” and ending with “Love To Watch You Leave”. Gary was, as usual, note perfect. An attentive crowd duly showed their appreciation for one of the UK’s country music top artists.
Next up was Stewart Mac and Dean Roberts. With a four song set, Stewart and Dean gel perfectly together, having honed their harmonies over many years together. Opening with “Catch You (When You Fall)” to “Lost In A Moment”, When We Were Young” and ending with “Radio”. They rocked the audience with the catchy sing-a-long chorus’s, and bounding energy levels. The chemistry between them is infectious. You can catch them on tour later on in the year.
Next up after another quick change, and a keyboard positioned centre stage, was Jenn Bostic. She has become a regular visitor and a firm favourite here in the UK, following her UK debut opening for Christian Kane (at the Garage) a few years ago. With her superb mix of Blues/Country/Soul and Gospel, she opened with “What Love Feels Like”, then, complete with audience participation, “Hollywood” and probably her best known song, (and most often covered by other artists), “Jealous Of The Angels” and closed with her current single “Revival” from her album of the same name. Jenn’s style lends itself equally to solo performances or full band, as it’s her voice that commands attention. The new album is certainly a ‘must buy’.
Fifth act on tonight was Riley Smith, Henri O’Connor and and Jonah Dolan known collectively as “The Life Of Riley”. Riley Smith may be better known to some people as Markus Keen from ABC’s Nashville, as well as a string of other TV/acting work, including True Blood, 90210 and 24. Kicking things off with their version of George Strait’s “The Fireman”, their ten song set included the fan favourites “She Got A Move” (with the usual ‘guest’ appearance by Christian Kane), and “By The Way”, as well as a couple of Nashville soundtrack songs “Don’t Make ‘Em Like You No More” and “In The Name Of Your Love”. Chris Stapleton’s “What Are You Listening To” was also given The Life Of Riley treatment which was a great crowd pleaser. His current solo single “I’m On Fire” was also performed in between copious shots and glasses’ of Guinness! They closed their set with a song from Riley’s latest TV project “Life Sentence”. The sheer enjoyment and fun the three of them have together is almost tangible, with countless stories and tales (and alcohol), that kept the crowd entertained throughout.
Like Riley Smith, Christian Kane is probably better known for his acting roles, rather than his music. Christian is pure country rock and one of the most underrated male singers around. Following prolonged contract disputes early in his music career, he is not a prolific ‘CD releaser’, in fact he has only released three CD’s in a long career, - two ‘self-released’ (his debut cd in 2000 and a live album in 2004) as well as his ‘Record Label’ debut CD, “The House Rules” in 2010 (which was re-named “Welcome To My House” after the contract dispute was sorted). With just him and his guitar, he opened with “Happy Man”, a song covered by Trace Adkins, he then called Henri and Jonah back on stage to accompany him for the rest of the evening. Launching into “Different Kind Of Knight” (which is a song he wrote apologising to women for the way he is)!! and then the Ray Lamontagne cover “Jolene”, before calling for shots and beer, you could see they came to party! With Riley Smith also poking fun from the side-lines, the evening felt like three great friends had got together to jam. His twelve song set included the first song he wrote “Track 29”, His first single, the solid country rock ballad “Let Me Go” and the powerful “Thinking Of You”. Another act who has mastered the art of entertaining a crowd with funny stories throughout, Christian indicated he may be back to acting in “Leverage” again shortly. The evening ended all too soon, with Kane’s anthem “The House Rules”.
It was plain to see the performers enjoyed it as much as the crowd. Perfect ending to a great evening’s entertainment.