Country 2 Country is a country music festival held at the O2 arena; This Festival brings southern culture and country music to the forefront with the first concert was announced in the summer of 2012 and was held in March of 2013.
Amongst a sea of cowboy hats you’re greeted at North Greenwich station by a huge billboard with Pictures of the weekends three headliners (Brad Paisley, Reba McEntire & Zac Brown Band) Once inside the O2 there’s two stages spotted around the arena which are free entry to the public;
The Big Entrance Stage:
This stage hosts a mixture of British and American up and comers as well as a few established artists. In previous years the likes of CMA Award winner Lori McKenna graced this stage and this year it was host to Una Healy previously a member of girl group ‘The Saturdays’ who recently released her debut solo album.
The Town Square Stage:
while Further in, the Town Square stage is located amidst an array of market styled stools, bars and food vans which all sell something associated with southern culture, whether it be cowboy boots, guitars or southern delicacies and it’s this stage where more established artists who are not on the main arena bill perform with Artists including UK Country Duo The Shires, Charlie Worsham and last year this stage was host to Maren Morris whose career blew up over the course of a year and this performed in the main arena opening for Zac Brown Band following her Grammy win.
In the main arena in-between sets on the main stage the Yamaha music stage would become active with artists doing 2-3 songs. The artists who perform on this stage are nearly always in the early stages of their career and have usually had a radio hit or have a certain level of recognition.
The former Sugarland member shone on stage with her flawless vocals as she came out all guns blazing to her track ‘Playing with Fire’, she then went on to perform crowd pleasers such as ‘Hey Heartbreak’ and the hit single ‘Unlove You’ the biggest surprise come from Nettles’ Mash-up of her song Sugar with Salt ‘n’ Pepper’s ‘Whatta Man’ and ‘Shoop’ to which she finished by saying “Bet you never expected Salt ‘n’ Pepper, did ya?” but it was when she sung Sugarland classic ‘Stay’ that the crowd when wild. This opener was everything you’d expect, Killer vocals, a whole lot of sass and a whole lot of country.
Prior to the event I only knew of Chris Young’s Duet with Cassadee Pope ‘Think of you’ but after this set me and 20,000 other people was more than just familiar with Chris Young. Everything from the music to the stage presence was electric. Chris Young’s set was one of the only sets being broadcasted live from BBC radio 2 country and he didn’t disappoint playing all of his hits, ‘Neon’, ‘Lonely Eyes’ and ‘Think of you’ (which he brought former voice contestant Cassadee Pope out for) all included but it was his cover of Keith Whitley’s ‘When You Say Nothing at All’ that left the audience in awe and the arena shining bright with 20,000 flashlights in the air.
Brad Paisley graced the main stage as Friday’s headliner with a stellar performance, with hits dating back to 1999. His Charisma shined through as he performed all of the Paisley classics we love including ‘Water’, ‘Alcohol’ and ‘This is Country Music’ not forgetting his killer duet with Carrie Underwood ‘Remind me’ and his duet with Alabama Both who appeared on the screen in pre-recorded videos behind Paisley for their verses.
Dan + Shay
Dan + Shay are part of the new generation of country acts taking the industry by storm with their blend of pop and country creating a new demographic for the genre. despite popular belief these guys are less of puppets and more generally talented and proved nothing less with their set performing hits like ‘Road Trippin’, ‘You + Me’ , ‘Obsessed’ and their most recent hit ‘From the Ground Up’ which was the turnaround point for many critics and music snobs claiming their music had no substance. They also threw in a cover go Bon Jovi’s ‘You give Love a Bad Name’ which only enhanced the energy in the arena.
Despite having a shorter set due to the amount of main stage acts Hunter Hayes did not disappoint. Hayes had the audience on his side right after he confessed his love and appreciation for the UK and went on to perform a few of his hits of previous hits like ‘Tattoo’ and ‘I want Crazy’ but mainly shifted his focus on his new Material singing two of the three singles released end of last year; ‘Yesterdays Song’ and ‘Amen’ and even giving the audience a taste of the new single.
Darius Rucker was absolutely, hands down the highlight of the weekend, everyone’s favourite southern gentleman gave a brilliant performance that fell somewhere between country superstar and songwriter extraordinaire (which just so happens to be everything we love about Country music) he gave you visuals, he gave you soul and he gave you one hell load of a voice. Whether you prefer old school country or new school everyone could raise their beers for Darius Rucker’s performance after all how can you not sing along to ‘Wagon Wheel’? He performed everything from ‘Radio’ to ‘Comeback song’ to ‘Homegrown honey’ he even included two covers one being ‘No Diggity’ and the other ending the set, with a touching tribute to the British music icons we lost last year singing Prince’s ‘Purple Rain’. As soon as he entered the stage the change in atmosphere and energy was undeniable.
Reba, a true country icon took to the stage with such grace. There were no dramatic costume changes or change of visuals there was simply a band, a backdrop stating ‘Reba’ and a woman with one hell of a voice and career trajectory. Reba didn’t disappoint singing a total of 21 tracks the crowd defiantly got their money’s worth. She sung everything from her hits like ‘How Blue’, ‘Whoever’s in New England’ and ‘Turn On the Radio’ to tracks of her new gospel record like ‘Back To God’ and ‘Swing Low, Sweet Chariot’ This woman new exactly how to command stage and keep the audience entertained, the set list was spread out perfectly to ensure the audience wouldn’t get bored as you could do with such a long set and bored we were not. She sung her step-daughter Kelly Clarkson’s ‘Because of You’ of her duets album and ended the legendary set with a Bobby Gentry Cover.
Brothers Osbourne are part of a unique Nashville collective of songwriters including; Maren Morris, Kacey Musgraves, Lucie Silvas and Kree Harleson So them blowing up was no surprise to us. Although there set was short and sweet to compensate the headlining and first supporting acts they really left an imprint on the audience, They sung all of their hits to date including chilled, backyard banger ’21 Summer’, ‘Rum’, ‘Greener Pastures’ and ‘Stay a little longer’ ending with outlaw anthem ‘Ain’t my Fault’ which had one of the best instrumental breaks we had seen all weekend. Whatever Brothers Osbourne are doing they should keep it up. As they not only put on a fantastic performance that not only showcases their voices but showcases their technical ability, their song writing skills and their ‘street cred’ if you will.
Texas native, Maren Morris is already flying high, with her being the first female in country to have a debut place at number one, having just coming of a Grammy win for best country Performance for _’My Church’ and being the only performer to be on the smaller Yamaha music stage the previous year she could be in a stronger place. Morris basically sung the entirety of her record disregarding a track or two. she came out all guns blazing with her huge voice and country crossover instrumentation this debut was filled with potential hits and already established ones so she we can’t blame her for playing the entire album. She’s considered one of the more unconventional country artists out there but is also creating a sub-genre that makes country music accessible for music fans who typically ‘don’t like country’ this was an exceptional performance and a perfect addition to the line-up.
Famous for being a member of Johnny Cash’s band before pursuing a solo career Marty Stuart’s mix of rockabilly and honky tonk just showed the versatility Country2Country showcases. Stuart played a lot of his own tracks as well as tracks he’d written for other artists. The standout of this set despite the killer instrumentation shown throughout the set was a song by the name of ‘Dark Bird’ for which Stuart wrote about the man in black himself Johnny Cash, while telling the back story of the song you could feel the whole arena engaged and there with him which is a rarity for a man on a stage with a close knit band with no extras but at the end of it all that’s what country’s about real stories that’s what’s at the core of every country song and that’s why we relate to it so much. Marty Stuart, job well done.
Zac Brown Band
The Headliners for the last night were of course Zac Brown Band who performed at C2C once before in 2014 and like always they always bring the high quality music and the epitome of southern culture. This is why they will continue to get booked they represent the modern day country man and their music reflects that, they have the perfect balance between classic country lovers and modern country. They are considered one of the greatest country acts to see live and we can’t denied their talent they performed all of their hit much like all the artist over the course of the weekend but it was the live rendition of songs like ‘Toes’, ‘free/Into the Mystic’, ‘sweet Annie’, ‘Beautiful Drug’ and ‘Chicken Fried’ that made the audience go wild they also through a knockout performance of Queen’s ‘bohemian Rhapsody’ that showcased their bluegrass harmonies and their stunning vocal ability. Zac brown Band was the perfect way to finish off the weekend.
Rumoured 2018 Acts Include;
- Shania Twain
- Dixie Chicks
- Willie Nelson
Guess We’ll Have to wait and see.