Chris Young kicked off his ‘Raised On Country’ tour in the UK this week and we caught up with him in London at the Hammersmith Apollo. Chris cuts a statuesque figure, as Kate and I found out as we were lucky enough to have a meet & greet with him before the show. He genuinely seemed to enjoy chatting to his fans, signing memorabilia, hugging each and every one, whilst chatting and taking his time to answer questions and lap up the adoration. We got to interview him a few weeks ago and he was as warm and giving during our phone call as he was in person. An all-round, genuinely nice guy with one of the best voices in country music today. He seemed excited at the prospect of playing the London gig, telling me that he couldn’t wait for the concert that evening and that it was going to be a good one – he wasn’t wrong!
Lindsay Ell opened the show and thrilled the audience with her formidable guitar prowess and slick vocals, incorporating elements of blues, rock & pop infused with country music. She played a number of hits from her debut album ‘The Project’ and wowed the dancing audience with a great cover of Stevie Wonder’s ‘Signed, Sealed, Delivered’. I look forward to seeing Lindsay’s career blossom, as she certainly deserves her hard-earned success.
The Apollo isn’t one of my favourite venues. Chris’ last solo gig in London was at the O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire and was by far, although smaller, the better venue, due to the electric atmosphere, clearer sound and the more intimate setting. However, this didn’t seem to faze Chris as he took to the stage, confident from the offset, and opened with ‘Hangin’ On’ to rapturous applause and cheering. The crowd continued this trend after and before each song, so much so that Chris looked completely stunned and overwhelmed with the reaction, joking with the crowd to ‘Calm Down’! Chris & his band rolled off hit after hit from all of his albums including my personal favourites ‘Who I Am With You’, ‘Sober Saturday Night’ and ‘Tomorrow’. Another firm favourite ‘Think Of You’ had the crowd in anticipation of maybe a surprise Lindsay Ell vocal too, but Chris carried it solo, which got me to thinking if I was Lindsay and had to take over Cassadee’s vocals then maybe I would have passed too, such is Cassadee’s impact on that song. She is simply unmatchable. These were interspersed with several fantastic covers which included the magnificent Keith Whitley’s ‘Don’t Close Your Eyes’ and a refreshing change to the usual Garth Brook’s cover – the rousing and fun ‘Papa Loved Mama’.
Chris stayed true to his promise to play until 11 o’clock, which made this London gig the longest UK concert on his tour and had two thirds of the audience running for their trains at the end of the night! The only thing I’d change (apart from the venue), is that I’d swap the fan request of ‘Text Me Texas’ for ‘Neon’ or ‘Blacked Out’ – sorry to the fan who requested that, although I have a sneaking suspicion that I know the culprit and they snuck that request in last time too!
The audience danced like no-one else was watching, swayed in time with the slower tempo numbers and – I’m sure – cried a few tears of joy as Chris’ voice just enveloped them in the warmest embrace that their £30 gig ticket (including fees) could buy. Chris shared with us the fact that his parents were with us somewhere in the crowd, enjoying their first time seeing him play in the UK. It’s safe to say that he did them proud, putting on one hell of a show with his equally impressive band (the both superb and hilarious cover of Princes’ ‘Kiss’ was tribute to this!).
Vocally as near to perfection as you can get, with a catalogue of hits that can cover all human emotions from gut-wrenching heartbreak to the late-night, drunken Tequila party that’s guaranteed to go on until the early hours, Chris Young proved that he’s got the whole package and is the ultimate entertainer. Rousing new songs ‘Raised On Country’ and ‘Hold My Beer, Watch This’ tease an exciting premise to the content of his new music and a break away from the pop-country feel of the last album. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that Chris headlines C2C Country to Country Festival next year!
Photo Credit – Denise Parcell
1. Hangin’ On 2. Gettin’ You Home 3. Lonely Eyes 4. Losing Sleep 5. Who I Am With You 6. I Can Take It From There 7. She’s Got This Thing About Her 8. Raised On Country 9. I’m Comin’ Over 10. Voices 11. Kiss (Prince cover) 12. Sober Saturday Night 13. Think Of You 14. Don’t Close Your Eyes (Keith Whitley cover) 15. I Thought It Was You (Doug Stone cover) 16. Papa Loved Mama (Garth Brooks cover) 17. You 18. Save Water, Drink Beer 19. Hold My Beer, Watch This 20. Tomorrow 21. Text Me Texas 22. Aw Naw