Chris Young - O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire, London
A Monday night in London. Inclement weather and a sense that summer has gone. The lead up to Chris Young’s show at the O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire is pretty standard for September in the UK, and at a venue that's seen its fair share of country artists over the last couple of years. So far, so Monday night.
The start of the week cobwebs are shaken almost immediately though as support act Frankie Davies ran through a varied set including uptempo numbers ‘Shivers’ and ‘Dancing All Night’ that are all too rare for acoustic openers, there’s even participation from the crowd. And it’s a fully packed venue tonight, even at this point. A quick scan of the punters shows that there’s a huge variety of ages, from teens to retirees, and a fair balance of male and female, it seems the main man appeals to all.
From the moment he bounds on stage, dressed all in black, to the opening licks of ‘A.M.’ you can see why; this is rocking country music at it's best, played by one of the most engaging performers you’ll see this year. From the run of tracks from his most recent record, A.M., including the full on ‘Aw Naw’, to the band introductions over an extended version of ZZ Top’s ‘Sharp Dressed Man’, Young put on a show. The crowd reaction was not like your usual Monday night in London; the Nashville native stopped ‘I Can Take It From There’ halfway through to elucidate on Conway Twitty (“I'm gonna put an ol' record on, Conway Twitty”) and the crowd responded with noise.
An ebullient set, full of heartfelt “thank you” messages to the sold out crowd, pushed nearly two hours, with plenty of anecdotes, an off the cuff acoustic performance of ‘Text Me Texas’ after a shout out from the crowd, the encore of Clapton’s ‘Change The World’ showed the real quality of Young’s voice. The deep, baritone notes have made him famous but his range is one of the evening's surprises.
The sense of unadulterated enjoyment of the show was best summarised by the astonishing extended standing ovation the 30 year old received before he’d even finished the last two songs of his main set; almost to a person the sold out venue were on their feet. The intensity of noise at that point shook the rafters, the emotion was clear across Young's face. It may be an overused word but awesome is just about the only way to describe the evening. Chris Young then, nicest man in country music? Almost certainly. One of the best shows of 2015? Absolutely.
Photo by David McClister.