After a hugely successful tour in 2016, the cast of the hit TV series Nashville returned to the UK this week. This year they moved their London concerts to the Royal Albert Hall, selling out three performances within minutes, and I was lucky enough to go along to their final show on Sunday evening.
Right from the off the cast got an incredibly enthusiastic response from the audience, with huge cheers as they each appeared on the video screens on either side of the stage as well as throughout the performance. They all spoke about being overwhelmed by the reaction from fans as well as the experience of performing at such an iconic venue, which clearly meant a lot to them all.
Similar to last year, each cast member had a short solo section before teaming up in various collaborations. Charles Esten (Deacon Claybourne) kicked things off with the stomping Buckle Up, one of the songs from his Every Single Friday project. He did a great job of building the crowd’s energy and getting everyone clapping along, and the growl in his vocal was perfect. Then Chris Carmack (Will Lexington) took to the stage, performing What If I Was Willing followed by a heavier version of Spinning Revolver. His rich, strong voice sounded excellent on both songs and I was also seriously impressed by his guitar playing.
Jonathan Jackson (Avery Barkley), who is joining the UK tour this year, was the person I was most excited to see and he definitely exceeded my expectations. He started his section with Keep Asking Why, which had a great grungy feel and really suited his more rock-influenced voice. Then he moved into an incredible version of U2’s Love Rescue Me, getting down on his knees and showcasing some serious power on the big notes. He got the first standing ovation of the evening and you could tell he was incredibly moved by the crowd’s reaction.
I felt a bit sorry for Sam Palladio (Gunnar Scott) having to follow that, but I needn’t have worried. His solo performance of I Will Fall was absolutely gorgeous, using a simple arrangement but still packed full of emotion. He followed that with his original song Heading For The Fire, which started out with an acoustic intro that allowed his vocal to shine before turning into a twangy rock number with an outlaw feel. Finally, Clare Bowen (Scarlett O’Connor) had the audience rapt with her sweet, lingering vocal on the haunting Longer, before going into the soaring new song Little By Little. The auditorium lit up with the lights of fans’ phones as she sang, which was a truly magical moment.
I had been hoping for an Exes reunion at some point and was delighted when Clare, Sam and Jonathan took to the stage to sing Borrow My Heart. Their voices sounded wonderful together and it was great to see them jamming with the band and having fun together. Other standout collaborations for me were Charles and Clare’s duet on Hand To Hold, where they danced through the audience; Sam and Chris’ banter and great harmonies on If It’s Love; and the utterly beautiful Fade Into You, performed by Clare and Sam. Special mention must also be made of Chris and Clare’s brilliant performance of Stand Up, which had the whole audience on their feet dancing and singing along.
Throughout the set the cast showcased a mixture of songs from the show, covers and original music. I particularly loved Chris’ take on Texas Flood, which showcased the sheer range of his voice, as well as Clare’s mesmerising, stripped-back performance of Black Roses. Charles, meanwhile, showed both sides of his character with the ballad Simple As That and the rocky, snarling He Ain’t Me, whilst Sam’s storytelling skills shone on Hello Heartbreak Blues and Wake Me Up In Nashville, a fan favourite from last year. But the undoubted highlight was Jonathan’s version of Unchained Melody. His soulful voice had almost Elvis-like depth to it in places and you could tell that he was caught up in the emotion of the song. The audience was completely spellbound throughout before erupting in applause and cheers at his amazing performance.
The show ended with all the cast members covering David Bowie’s Heroes, which gave them an opportunity to show off their other musical talent, particularly Chris Carmack on saxophone and Sam Palladio on drums. They then moved onto One More Song and finished off with A Life That’s Good, which has become something of a Nashville tour tradition and the ideal end to a wonderful show, with their voices sounding fantastic together (particularly Sam, Chris and Jonathan’s section – we need more of that on the show!).
I had been a bit nervous that the show wouldn’t live up to the brilliance of last year but thankfully my fears were unfounded; Nashville In Concert delivered in spades yet again. The whole cast are all hugely talented – Jonathan Jackson in particular was a revelation – and it was clear that they and the audience were having the time of their lives. Here’s hoping they come back in 2018!
Set list: 1. Buckle Up (Charles Esten) 2. What If I Was Willing (Chris Carmack) 3. Spinning Revolver (Chris Carmack) 4. Keep Asking Why (Jonathan Jackson) 5. Love Rescue Me (Jonathan Jackson) 6. I Will Fall (Sam Palladio) 7. Heading For The Fire (Sam Palladio) 8. Borrow My Heart (Clare Bowen, Jonathan Jackson, Sam Palladio) 9. Longer (Clare Bowen) 10. Little By Little (Clare Bowen) 11. Hand To Hold (Clare Bowen & Charles Esten) 12. Simple As That (Charles Esten) 13. Stand Up (Clare Bowen & Chris Carmack with Sam Palladio on drums) 14. If It’s Love (Chris Carmack & Sam Palladio) 15. Texas Flood (Chris Carmack) 16. The Killing Moon (Jonathan Jackson) 17. Unchained Melody (Jonathan Jackson) 18. Hello Heartbreak Blues (Sam Palladio) 19. Wake Me Up In Nashville (Sam Palladio) 20. Fade Into You (Clare Bowen & Sam Palladio) 21. Letting It Rain (Clare Bowen) 22. Black Roses (Clare Bowen) 23. True Love Ways/I Climb The Walls (Charles Esten) 24. He Ain’t Me (Charles Esten) 25. Heroes (Charles Esten, Clare Bowen, Sam Palladio, Jonathan Jackson & Chris Carmack on saxophone) 26. One More Song (Charles Esten, Clare Bowen, Sam Palladio, Jonathan Jackson, Chris Carmack) 27. A Life That’s Good (Charles Esten, Clare Bowen, Sam Palladio, Jonathan Jackson, Chris Carmack) Venue: Royal Albert Hall Performance Date: 11th June 2017
The Music Of Nashville Original Soundtrack CDs Season 5 Volumes 1 & 2 are out now.