(Guest Author: Ailish Barker-Brown)
American Country band, Little Big Town, had an extremely successful 2014 with the release of their sixth studio album, ‘Painkiller’ of which the lead single, ‘Day Drinking’, went on to reach number 2 on Country Airplay. They also won Vocal Group of the Year at the CMA (Country Music Association) Awards in November, beating Lady Antebellum, and were invited to join the Grand Ole Opry by country legend Reba McEntire. They’re all set for a successful 2015 too, beginning with their UK ‘Painkiller’ tour and the release of their latest single, ‘Girl Crush’. I was lucky enough to get a ticket to see them perform at The Ritz.
The place was packed; given the lack of (but growing presence of) country music in the UK, when a country band or artist come to the UK, people take the chance to see them! But luckily for people of 5”1, the Ritz is the perfect venue to see a popular band, if you don’t manage to get near the front (which thankfully I managed to!) you can go up on the balcony and get a great view of the stage from there. The support act, British country duo, The Shires, was met with great success. Playing the title track of their upcoming album ‘Brave’, likely to be the first British country album ever to make the top 10 in the album charts, along with their latest single ‘Friday Night’, their other singles ‘Tonight’ and ‘Nashville Grey Skies’, some tracks from their EP, ‘Green Note’ including ‘State Lines’. They finished with a fantastic cover of ‘Islands in the Stream’ and boy did they give Dolly and Kenny a run for their money; the audience went crazy. For a support act they were definitely the best I’ve seen for keeping the attention of the audience; playing ‘Nashville Grey Skies’, a song about building a country music home in the UK is always bound to go down well in a room full of country fans and getting the audience into a competition whilst singing ‘Tonight’ was great. Personally, I enjoyed them so much, for a good half an hour I’d forgotten I was actually there to see Little Big Town!
Afterwards Little Big Town took to the stage and the audience went wild! They definitely deserved that CMA Award. They opened with ‘Turn the Lights On’, a track from their latest album, which was appropriate given that they came out of the dark! They followed this up by playing for almost two hours straight. They played the majority of their tracks from ‘Painkiller’ as well as some old favourites including ‘Sober’, ‘Pontoon’, ‘Tornado’, ‘Bring it on Home’, ‘Little White Church’ , ‘Front Porch Thing’ and ‘I’m On Fire Tonight’. They also covered Fleetwood Mac’s ‘The Chain’ as Lindsey Buckingham was a huge inspiration to them. They finished the show as well as they started it; for the encore they played ‘I’m With the Band’ and ‘Bonedocks’. The songs were so much more amazing live (not that the studio versions aren’t fantastic).
The band really knows how to put on a show, yet at the same time, they were so down to earth, so grateful for their fans and for being able to play for us in the UK. The band is very different in the sense that they don’t actually have a lead singer. Either all 4 members will sing together or one member will lead a particularly song. Karen has such a powerful voice, it goes so well with ‘Girl Crush’ and ‘Tornado’, Kimberly on the other hand has a lovely soft voice, it matches the song ‘Sober’ perfectly. Jimi’s deep voice is perfect for ‘Faster Gun’ and Phil’s deep but softer voice is well matched with ‘I’m With the Band’. As well as this, their voices, all so different, all go perfectly together and the different combinations of their voices make each song just that little bit different and little bit special.