Live Review: Nashville In Concert: The Farewell Tour (The O2, London)

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Nashville certainly has a dedicated fanbase. Having ran for many years on the ABC Network, it was announced that the show would be cancelled after 4 seasons. However, the fans wouldn’t let this happen, with the #BringBackNashville petition receiving over 174,000 and encouraging showrunners to find a new home for the series on CMT, where it has run ever since. With a response like this, it’s no surprise that UK fans relished the opportunity to welcome back the cast for farewell shows.

The show began with a video montage lighting up the screens and showing images of last years Nashville In Concert gig at The Royal Albert Hall, which I’m sure many of that night’s attendees had been to. The montage finished with cast members saying “London, let’s get ready to party!” The tone for the night was set and the performers for the tour – Clare Bowen, Chris Carmack, Charles Esten, Jonathan Jackson and Sam Palladio – rushed to the stage for the first song we ever heard on Nashville, Even If It Breaks Your Heart.

The format of the evening involved a rota of each performer taking to the stage to play one or two of their characters (or their own) songs. We started with Jonathan Jackson, who stars as bad boy gone good Avery Barkley who kicked off with the rocky Keep Asking Why. He handed over to Chris Carmack, who plays rising country star Will Lexington, for the sultry I’m On It and What If I Was Willing. I was a big fan of Chris’ style and thought he’d be a great headliner himself, but as the night transpired it became clear that each of these artists could easily hold an entire show on their own.

Chris was joined by Englishman Sam Palladio, aka Gunnar Scott, who received a great welcome home from the crowd. He offered us a behind the scenes insight to life on the show, saying that hands down the best part of being a cast member was the great friendships he’d built over the shows 6 years, such as that with Chris. The duo treated us with a new song from the shows latest and final season, Right Where You Want Me.

This being the farewell tour, Sam took the opportunity to say goodbye to the character he’d dedicated the majority of his career to (and which the crowd seemed to have difficulty distinguishing him, with shouts of ‘Love you Gunnar!’ emanating every so often from the audience) with the touching Adios Old Friend which research tells me was co-written by Brett Eldredge – they certainly had fantastic songwriters throughout the shows history!

The Hell Of It showed off Gunnar’s rockier side, as well as Sam’s musical prowess, as he took a seat at the drum kit for an awesome solo. Again, I was struck by how multitalented these performers were, being actors, singers and musicians who could easily switch from one talk to another. Jonathan returned to the stage for This Old Town and a cover of Simple Minds Belfast Child, the Celtic tones of which I’m sure have gone down very well on the other tour dates this side of the pond.

This was followed by Clare Bowen, the shows Scarlett O’Connor, who burst on to the stage like an ethereal fairy, barefoot in a flowing white dress with feathers in her hair. I liked the fact that we got to see the performers as themselves rather than just their character, with Clare’s stage presence reminding me of Jennifer Nettles, albeit a more introverted version, as she spoke very softly into the microphone. The artists were offered the opportunity to play their own songs, with Clare choosing one from her upcoming album, the joyous Let It Rain, complete with multicoloured tambourine dancing.

Her announcement that she would next sing the haunting Black Roses received tumultuous applause, which only continued throughout her raw performance. She finished with a powerful vibrato, leading to a standing ovation which went on and on, leaving Clare shellshocked on the stage. Before we all start crying, she invited Charles Esten, perhaps Nashville’s most famous character Deacon Claybourne, on for the happy Hand To Hold.

He continues with the first song Deacon ever sang about long time love interest Rayna James, and one of my favourites from the show, Sideshow. It is songs like this that I think show that Nashville did country music proud, representing the genre as one full of meaningful lyrics like this, and so I was pleased to hear this performed live. It is evident as well juts how much these characters mean to their actors, who spoke very fondly of them, treating their stories as their own, as Charles did sitting down at the piano for Good Rain or Jesus.

I enjoyed the sections where the performers came together, with Chris and Sam following this with Don’t Come Easy and the bluesy Moving On Never Felt So Good. Sam continued with one of his own tracks written about his grandfather, who coincidentally met a girl from Nashville whilst in training for the war. The story goes he told her to meet him on the platform of Nashville station as his train rolled through from Pensacola to Edward Island in Canada. Tipping the train conductor to wake him up on time, it transpires that this promise was forgotten as he was woken up at 4am to be told it was too late, a scenario which later inspired Sam to write Wake Me Up In Nashville. Whilst a touching story, Sam put a positive spin on the tearjerker by reminding us that had such a mistake not occurred, he would not be standing there today!

As well as writing songs for their own records, some of their self-penned tracks even made it on to the show, with Sam writing Gunnar’s final song of the series Going Electric highlighting a different version of the character from the one we first met playing slow songs at The Bluebird Café. However, it’s clear that plenty has changed over the course of the series as the next song Go With It comes from Gunnar, Will and Avery’s newly formed band ‘The Lost Highways’ – a trio I doubt any of us would have predicted when we first met their characters.

Jonathan then took the opportunity to surprise us with the good news that he would be returned to London to play Omeara with his band on May 19th, and I for one would certainly recommend attending, as he offered sneak peeks of songs we might expect like the rocky A Shock To The System, and an absolutely earth shattering rendition of Unchain Melody with such a vocal range as I’d never heard before. In spite of not actually being a song from Nashville, this was a true highlight of the show for me, and many others if the standing ovation is anything to go by.

He was joined again by Clare and Sam for the fun Borrow My Heart before the latter two treated us to perhaps their characters most famous song Fade Into You. There are songs from this show that I know for certain will be listened to again and again for years to come, and this is certainly one of them.

Clare jumped in with another of her own songs Tide Rolls In before declaring she ought to play a pretty song, this time another crowd favourite When The Right One Comes Along, which ended up being another of my highlights from the show.

There was no one better to finish up the show than Charles, who played some of his own songs inspired by Deacon’s relationship with Rayna, including Whisky Lips and the awfully fun He Ain’t Me, as well as the thought-provoking Sanctuary from the show, reminding us of the terrible atrocities that occurred at music events last year and that music itself can provide sanctuary.

The ensemble returned to the stage for their final song, and a more apt song could not have been picked than A Life That’s Good. All in all, I doubt any Nashville fans would have gone away disappointed after such a fun night. Sure, you could argue that there were some notable exceptions to the cast in the forms of Hayden Panettiere, Connie Britton and Lennon & Maisy Stella who would have been welcome additions to the tour, but the variety of voices and characters we heard throughout the night was enough to make any Nashville fan, and indeed any country music fan, proud.

Luckily for us, whilst the live show may be over, there’s still a few more episodes of the series left as well as plenty of soundtracks to keep us occupied. Just listening to the Season 6 Volume 1 soundtrack has me excited for what’s to come from the show, and indeed what we might expect at the Nashville In Concert Revival Tour. I’m ever hopeful!

We hope you liked our review! Make sure to follow @nashoverhere and @CiarasCountry for even more concert reviews and interviews, coming soon to the site!


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FIRST AIRED

10th October 2012


Hometown

Nashville



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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!