Live Review: Maren Morris (O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London)

Ciara Headlines, Live Review

Photo Credit: @everythingmaren

I honestly feel like I had been waiting for this concert forever. Perhaps it was due to the exhilaration of finding out months and months ago that one of my favourite artists was coming to do a string of UK dates, making sure to be online as soon as tickets were released to secure my spot, and then the big day finally arriving. I couldn’t wait.

Arriving at the O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire, I couldn’t help but think how crazy it was that a Grammy Award winning artist was playing a reasonably medium-sized venue as opposed to sell-out shows at the O2 Arena or somewhere of a similar capacity. Add to this the fact that this was probably the biggest venue of the entire UK leg of the tour, and it seems all the more strange. As doors opened, I headed inside (thank you to Hannah for her help at the venue!) to take my place on the first seating level, watching as the standing section filled up quickly below me.

As the clock struck eight, the room darkened and Ryan Hurd strolled onto stage, looking very chilled out in a plaid shirt and jeans. He began the way I always like to hear artists – solo on the soft sounding Chasing After You, allowing us to get a real feel for his vocal style. However, he wasted no time in getting the party started, jumping straight into We Do Us, a Saturday night party anthem. I suppose as the opening act for Maren, I had expected his style to be somewhat similar but in fact he verged more on ‘country rock’, providing an interesting juxtaposition to what was to come.

Throughout the set, he ranged from other rock-inspired tracks like Half Hoping and City Girl to groovy tunes like Hold You Back. From watching, he certainly seemed to be ‘in the music’, as he sang most of the songs with his eyes closed. I particularly enjoyed Michigan For The Winter, a song about being proud of where you’re from, with lyrics that evoked sweet images of spending the holidays with the ones you love.

Ryan was not only taking part in the Hero tour simply as Maren’s opening act, but also as her fiancé, and songs like Last Turn Home and Love In A Bar offered beautiful snapshots into their relationship, detailing how they fell in love whilst making their mark on the music industry, and how it had brought them to where they are now. I suppose touring with your significant other solves the issue of being away from them for so long, something which I know creates contention for many artists who are not so lucky.

As well as being an enjoyable entertainer, Ryan is also a talented songwriter including of Lady Antebellum’s summer smash You Look Good which he played for us, highlighting his ability to write hugely commercially successful tracks, a feat which many Nashville artists strive to achieve. Doing a bit of Googling later, I was thrilled to see he’d also written Blake Shelton’s Lonely Tonight, a song I very much enjoy listening to now and then.

As the lights went up, I took the opportunity to glance around the venue, spotting UK Country Music royalty in the form of Ben Earle from The Shires as well as Liv Austen sitting up in the stands – always nice to see country artists supporting one another, and good to know they have great taste in music too!

Before long, the lights dimmed again and Maren took to the stage looking effortlessly classy in a leather jumpsuit and beige coat, as well as rocking British fashion in the form of a pair of Harrods blue knee-highs. The show started the same way as the album with the always fun Sugar before moving into Just Another Thing. Rather than staying in one place, she worked the stage, feeding off the crowds energy and vice versa.

The set was simple, with only a small LED ‘hero’ sign at the back of the stage and occasionally using the lighting to influence the mood, such as in the sultry How It’s Done, my favourite track off of her debut album which yes, did sound amazing live. In fact, I found her voice truly unreal, thinking at times that you could be fooled into thinking that she was lip-syncing (which she wasn’t) because it was truly just so good.
I thoroughly enjoyed the poppy tracks throughout her set, including new number Flavour (or Flavor, I guess) complete with brilliant lyrics like “Shut up and sing / Well, hell no I won’t” and Company You Keep, a song which didn’t make the final cut of the Hero album but can be found on the EP – give it a listen.

LEVELS. Levels. levels. Still shook. 🇬🇧📷: @theanthonydangio

A post shared by Maren Morris (@marenmorris) on

As well as playing most of the tracks from Hero, we also got to see Maren’s take on a variety of other artists, including Bonnie Raitt’s 70s anthem Angel From Montgomery and the almost rap / RnB sounding Hymn which I would have had no idea was by none other than Kesha. These moments were nowhere more appreciated than when she deftly mashed up her own and other songs, as in the case of Second Wind and Beyonce’s Halo which allowed her to go mad with incredible vocal runs.

The real highlights for me came when she sang ballads, such as I Could Use A Love Song which she told us had made it to radio in spite of nay-sayers suggesting that no one wanted to listen to slow songs – thank God she didn’t listen; and I Wish I Was, for which she brought Ryan back out to duet with. Without a doubt my favourite moment of the night was when she sang Once which for me exemplified exactly why she won a Grammy. Never before have I heard a song sang so incredibly. Seriously, YouTube it.

There were a lot of fan favourites included in the set too including 80s Mercedes and Rich, which she encouraged the crowd to take over on with everyone in the crowd coming together to shout-sing the words to the super-fun chorus. Of course, My Church was used to close the main set and I’ll be damned if not everyone in the house was singing ‘Hallelujah’ at the top of their lungs along with her.

As much as the fantastic vocals, what I also really appreciated was the amount that Maren made sure to connect with the audience. Between songs, she would chat to us for a good few minutes, commenting on how cool it was to have a sold out show in the middle of the week (like we would ever have missed it, even if it was at 6am on a Monday morning!), talking about the lack of women in country music and how thrilled she was that we were out here supporting female artists like her. It was nice to see that she not only cared about putting on a good show, but also that her fans felt like they had got to connect with her on a more personal level too.

Nowhere was this more clear than in her last song, which she preceded with a heartfelt statement about writing in response to tragedy, performing at the Route 91 festival earlier this year, and deciding there was no better time to release the final song of her set than after the Las Vegas shootings. Dear Hate was a beautiful song filled with raw emotion, and a perfect way to point out that in times of hate, music and love really do conquer all. No wonder she finished to rapturous applause and probably a few tears from audience members.

If I had to sum up Maren’s gig in one word, it would be a simple ‘wow’. I’ve never been more impressed with an artist’s vocals and I can’t wait for more singles, albums, and concerts to come. This is an artist I’ll be listening to and attending gigs for as long as I can.

I hope you enjoyed this review of one of my favourite artists, and I’d love to find out all about yours! Drop us a message on Twitter @nashoverhere and @CiarasCountry and be sure to follow for more reviews and interviews from fantastic country artists coming soon!


More Information

Birthday

10 April 1990


Birthplace

Dallas Texas



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About the Author

Ciara

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Hi! I’m Ciara, long time country music fan, host of ‘Ciara’s Country’ on Purple Radio, and blogger on a mission to bring country music to a wider audience in the UK by proving it’s not all about trucks and banjos! I love all kinds of contemporary country, from big Nashville names to the latest UK artists – I’ll listen to just about anything. You can normally find me reviewing and interviewing artists at any country music gigs I can find in London or scouring social media looking to find the next big thing!