Country To Country 2018 - Main Stage preview
C2C Country To Country is returning for another weekend of country music mayhem in London, Glasgow, and Dublin. We preview all 12 of the main stage acts. All days below are for London, check the festival website for local times.
The opening acts on the first day of C2C are old friends. Old Dominion played a set of shows on what are now known as the Festival Stages. Taking over 2016's festival with their humour (ripping off a plaster, not a band-aid), and their hummable melodies. Seeing them on the main stage will be a delight.
Also returning to the UK on Friday night is Kelsea Ballerini who supported the all-conquering Lady Antebellum in 2017. This is her first time at C2C though and after getting The O2 singing along to 'XO' she'll be playing tracks from her new record, Unapologetically. Hopefully 'Roses' and 'I Hate Love Songs' will be among the setlist.
Headlining as a duo for the first time in the UK are Faith Hill and Tim McGraw (Tim's been at C2C before). It's a tough call as to what might be a highlight, one of McGraw's solo hits, one of Hill's vocal powerhouse deliveries, or something from their duet album. There's plenty to choose from (including 'Telluride' or 'Cowboy Lullaby'), and really, this is the biggest country show the UK will see this year.
The middle day sees bearded, trucker hat wearer Luke Combs make his London debut. A great addition to the line-up his This One's For You was one of the more traditional sounding records to come out of Music Row in 2017. With a set of songs like 'Hurricane', 'Out There', and 'Beer Can', the 28-year-old will bring Southern sounds to London. He'll be followed by someone the UK knows very well; Kip Moore is becoming something of a fixture on this side of the pond. His road-worn, uber-friendly personality is at the root of his popularity, but his Springsteen-esque songs have given him the basis to grow. Last time he was at C2C he covered Oasis, this time he's got three records of his own to get through. Here's hoping 'The Bull' is on that setlist.
Maybe the coup of the entire weekend is the return of Sugarland. It shouldn't come as a surprise though, as Kristian Bush and Jennifer Nettles are longtime supporters of the UK and C2C in particular. Bush has been a regular in London and Nettles played this very festival in 2017. Expect a few new songs but just seeing the duo back together on stage will be powerful stuff.
Headlining on Saturday is someone that we in the UK we have a pretty large soft spot for. Miss Kacey Musgraves. She's treated us kindly on many previous visits but it's the wit and wisdom of her songs that really resonate with her British audience. Modern country classics like 'Follow Your Arrow', 'Dime Store Cowgirl', and 'Merry Go Round' will be joined by some new material like 'Butterflies' and 'Space Cowboy' from her just-announced Golden Hour due 30th March.
Openers for the final day are making their first trip to the UK. Midland haven't met with universal approval, in fact they've attracted some of the worst criticism seen in Nashville for a long time, but not for their music, their background. Putting all that to one side there's no getting away from the fact their debut record is terrific. On The Rocks is stacked full of contemporary country licks and sounds. 'Drinkin' Problem' is their most obvious crowd pleaser but 'Check Cashin' Country' and 'Make a Little' will get feet moving in The O2.
Also on Sunday is another of the UK's fave country performers, Margo Price. Like Kip Moore and Kacey Musgraves, Price has spent a significant amount of time in the UK building up an audience from the tiny London venue The Social, to a place at C2C. As well as bringing her crack live band, Miss Price won't shy away from songs of heartbreak (the epic 'Hands Of Time') and inequality (the topical 'Pay Gap'), while also giving C2C plenty to groove to (the fantasticv honky-tonk guitar shredding 'Paper Cowboy').
To see Emmylou Harris on the bill but not topping it is somewhat of a surprise, though the muted reception for Reba McEntire last year may have meant she ceded to the more populist act. There's no doubt that Harris is the traditional country legend that C2C tries to throw up once a year, her more recent output of duets belies the influence she had in the 70s with her string of hit records. Expect a lesson in classic country craftsmanship.
Closing the show (in London at least) are probably the best contemporary country band around. Little Big Town aren't strangers to the UK and their popularity is down, in part, to their total likeability. It's also down to songs like the modern classic 'Girl Crush', and party songs like 'Pontoon', 'Day Drinking', 'Happy People' and a whole bunch more.
If you haven't got your ticket yet there are some left for each day, and weekend tickets. Check out the C2C website for full details on tickets and line-up.