Kristy Osmunson and Jon Stone – better known as American Young – have been winning over fans in the UK since they first performed at C2C Festival back in 2016. Since then their debut album has had over 15 million plays on Spotify and they’ve appeared at festivals including Buckle and Boots, as well as opening for artists like Lee Brice, Kenny Chesney and Lady Antebellum. Last night, the duo performed their first ever sold-out show at Pizza Express Live in London as part of the Nashville Meets London Presents series.
After an introduction from Baylen Leonard, Kristy and Jon took to the stage with their backing band and opened their set with the romantic Be Here, the first track on their album. Kristy’s violin-playing added a folky, dreamy vibe to the song and I liked the way the instruments were layered throughout.
During the show Jon mentioned that they see their set list as more of a ‘suggestion’ that something to rigidly stick to, and that was definitely the case last night. The performance featured several songs from their debut album, including the bright, upbeat Point Of View, Love Is War with its vivid imagery and the bluesy, slinky Slow Ride. Fans were also treated to a preview of their upcoming second record with Last Night Alone, which put me in mind of Sam Cooke’s classic Wonderful World and had some added poppy elements.
That said, there were also plenty of cover versions which showed off the band’s diverse musical influences. Garth Brooks’ The Thunder Rolls had a tense, ominous quality, whilst Just The Two Of Us highlighted the band’s soulful side with its summery sound, funky bassline and some impressive vocal freestyling from Kristy.
However, what pulled it all together was Kristy and Jon’s vocals. Their harmonies are utterly gorgeous and they have a lovely balance to their sound, with Kristy’s sweet, delicate sound acting as a perfect counterpoint to Jon’s deeper, rocky tones. One particular highlight was the yearning Soldier’s Wife, where they wrung every drop of emotion out of the tale of a couple’s last night together before the husband leaves for war. I shed a few tears listening to the song and am sure I wasn’t the only one.
Whilst the set was mainly focused on duets, the pair also got their own moments to shine. Kristy’s version of Joey & Rory’s Cheater, Cheater was sassy and sharp, with a huge note at the end, whilst Jon brought out the gravel in his voice on A Woman Like You, which he originally wrote for Lee Brice. They also had great chemistry, teasing each other about their tattoos and on-stage mistakes, and came across as incredibly relaxed and warm whilst looking like they were having a great time performing together.
The band finished their performance with American Dream, which mixed beautifully detailed lyrics with a steady driving rhythm and got the crowd clapping around, and their spin on Avicii’s Wake Me Up. The latter took on a different feel with the addition of Kristy’s high-energy fiddle playing, and was rewarded with huge cheers and a standing ovation from the audience.
Overall American Young delivered an entertaining performance that showed off different sides to their music whilst also emphasising their strengths. Having only seen them perform acoustic sets previously, the addition of a band added another dimension to their music, yet the elements which made them great to watch before – lush vocals, skilled musicianship and solid songwriting – were all still present and correct. I would have perhaps liked to hear one or two more of their original songs but based on this set it’s clear there’s a lot of love for them in the UK and I’m intrigued to see where they’ll go next.
Set list: 1. Be Here 2. The Thunder Rolls 3. Point Of View 4. Love Is War/Cotton Eyed Joe 5. Cheater, Cheater 6. A Woman Like You 7. Just The Two Of Us 8. Last Night Alone 9. Soldier’s Wife 10. Something To You 11. Slow Ride 12. American Dream 13. Wake Me Up Performance date: 27th June 2018