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Cam, Islington Assembly Hall, London live review

Ahead of her new album later this year, Cam performed a one-off headline show in London.

Cam
Credit: Dennis Leupold

As Country has increased in popularity here in the UK, there’s a handful of artists in the genre that have prioritised coming over to perform. One of those is singer-songwriter Cam, who received a very warm reception at C2C: Country to Country 2017 and followed up her standout performance with a show at London’s Bush Hall. Last summer Cam returned for a one-off show at The Tabernacle in London, where she treated fans to a lengthy set and spoke about the meanings behind each of her songs. This weekend Cam was back in the capital to perform at Sam Smith’s shows at The O2 Arena (they’ve been performing Palace together, which Cam co-write with Smith) and she found time to play her own headline show at Islington Assembly Hall last night.

Opening up her set with current single Diane, it was clear from the start that Islington Assembly Hall was packed with die-hard Cam fans. The song turned into a giant singalong (the first of many over the course of the night) and after it finished the crowd was already asking Cam to perform the song again, something she willingly obliged when it came to the encore. Diane is an answer back to Dolly Parton’s iconic Jolene, telling the story of the other woman who was unaware that her new man was actually married to someone else. It’s a clever spin on Parton’s original idea and Cam sings the hell out of it.

For the entirety of the performance Cam was joined by two acoustic guitarists from Sweden, who fans will remember played with her at The Tabernacle last year. Cam promised to bring a full band over with her next time but to be honest the acoustic set-up really works for her. Vocally no one touches her in modern Country so it’s nice to be able to hear her powerful and passionate voice clearly above the acoustic backing. On songs such as the stirring Mayday and the punchy Half Broke Heart, Cam really showcased her range and she made it look completely effortless.

Early on in the set Cam asked the audience if she could play song from her upcoming new record. Met with cheers of approval, Cam launched into the beautiful Forgetting You When I’m Alone and I was blown away with her vocal. The song is emotive, powerful and relatable, and it’s a good indicator that her forthcoming record is going to be a must-have. Elsewhere in the set the revenge anthem Runaway Train was a highlight as was the tongue-in-cheek Country Ain’t Never Been Pretty, which the audience happily sang every word to.

A nice inclusion in the set was Palace, the song that Cam co-write with Sam Smith for his current album The Thrill Of It All. As she’d been performing it at The O2 with Smith the past couple of days, and will be for the next couple of days, it was a real treat to hear her rendition of it. Don’t get me wrong, I love Smith’s take on the song, but Cam’s packed in a raw power that in my opinion makes the song even more effective.

As always with Cam, her personality shone through between songs. She chatted to the audience, laughed as she recalled a variety of stories and spoke unfiltered about her feelings in regards to how Country radio in the US treats female artists. It’s that kind of candidness that marks Cam out from her contemporaries and it’s one of the reasons us Brits love her so much.

Other highlights over the course of the evening included Fireball, the ‘unofficial Fireball Whiskey song’, which was an ode to the delicious but dangerously intoxicating drink, the rousing Manhunt and early cut Down This Road. Of course Burning House, which was the penultimate song of the evening, got one of the biggest reactions and it’s a song Cam clearly still feels very passionate about.

Following the encore performance of Diane, which got an even bigger reaction than its first outing earlier in the evening, Cam said her goodbyes to the audience and departed the stage. Honestly I could have listened to her sing for a few more hours but I also felt I’d witnessed yet another special show from the singer-songwriter. Cam is such an engaging and entertaining performer who can back up the hype with stellar material and first-class vocals. The audience was one of the loudest I’ve heard at a show for a while, which contributed to the electric atmosphere inside Islington Assembly Hall and is testament to just how truly incredible a live performer Cam is. Please come back soon Cam!

 

Set list: 1. Diane 2. Hungover on Heartache 3. Mayday 4. Half Broke Heart 5. My Mistake 6. Forgetting You When I’m Alone 7. Down This Road 8. Runaway Train 9. Manhunt 10. Cold in California 11. Palace 12. Village 13. Country Ain’t Never Been Pretty 14. Fireball 15. Burning House 16. Diane Performance date: 8th April 2018

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