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Cam, Shepherds Bush Empire, London live review

The US country star wowed the crowd at London’s Shepherds Bush Empire

Cam
Credit: Dennis Leupold

It’s safe to say that Cam is definitely not a stranger to British shores. Since she made her UK debut at C2C Festival back in 2017, she’s been a regular visitor across the pond – most recently for a special headline show at Islington Assembly Hall earlier this year. Having won over fans with her incredible vocals and raw, honest lyrics, last night she was back in the capital to play her biggest gig yet at Shepherds Bush Empire.

On her last visit to London Cam promised she would be back with her full band this time, and she introduced them gradually during her set. The performance began with what Cam described as a ‘little therapy session’, seated on a couch and flanked by her two guitarists and banjo player. It made the Empire feel like an incredibly intimate space and showed that she isn’t afraid to do something different.

This acoustic-led section was one of the highlights of the night for me, showing off Cam’s stunning vocals to full effect. She opened with her latest single Road To Happiness, which she introduced with a passionate speech to the audience about following your own path – a theme she’d return to throughout the night. The song itself showed off the warm, rich tones in her voice and some beautiful lyrics alongside gentle guitars. Right from the off the crowd were singing every word back to Cam and they didn’t let up for the whole show, as she encouraged them to join in throughout.

The first part of the set also included several of Cam’s most popular songs, including a bright, soaring version of My Mistake, the sassy Country Ain’t Never Been Pretty and Village, a lilting tune full of love and affection. Cam also threw in a cover of the bluegrass song Echo Mountain, which she narrated throughout, showing off her wicked sense of humour and finishing with an impressive a capella moment.

After a dramatic ‘murder ballad version’ of the first verse of Diane, Cam returned to the stage with her band to perform the full version. Her performance had tons of energy and she could frequently be seen dancing to the driving rhythm and fuzzy guitars as she belted out the song. She also chatted to the audience throughout her set, telling the stories behind the songs, and came across as incredibly engaging and funny.

One thing I noticed was that adding in the band gave a different vibe to several of the songs. Tracks such as Mayday and Til There’s Nothing Left took on a heavier, rocky feel, whilst the driving, rattling Runaway Train was turned up to 11 with beefy guitars and red lighting to rival Little Big Town’s Tornado staging.

However, what drew the whole show together was Cam’s incredible vocals. By turns sweet and soulful, she hit some huge notes throughout – particularly on Hungover On Heartache and her cover of Aretha Franklin’s classic Natural Woman – and injected tons of passion into her lyrics. New song Forgetting You When I’m Alone was a great example of this, with the stripped-back arrangement putting the focus firmly on the raw emotion in Cam’s voice and the detailed storytelling.

After thanking the audience Cam closed her set with Burning House, which has just gone double platinum in the US. She asked the crowd to put their phone lights in the air and their arms around each other before performing the track. The low-key acoustic guitar balanced beautifully with her clear, soft voice and magnified the song’s emotional power.

After a volley of cheers and applause, Cam came back out for a two-song encore. She began with her version of Palace, which she wrote with Sam Smith. Her vocal was full of yearning, which worked really well with the lonesome, bluesy guitar and made for a very moving moment. She then finished on a cover of the classic It’s Cryin’ Time, which showed off her rich tone and her ability to put her own spin on a traditional tune.

Overall Cam delivered another fantastic performance that highlighted why she’s one of the most unique country artists around. Her fantastic voice, skilled songwriting and great stage presence mean she’s always a joy to watch, and she always brings something new and different to the table. It’s clear the audiences in the UK love her and based on the strength of last night’s show she can’t come back soon enough!

Set list: 1. Road To Happiness 2. My Mistake 3. Country Ain’t Never Been Pretty 4. Village 5. Echo Mountain 6. Diane 7. Mayday 8. Runaway Train 9. Forgetting You When I’m Alone 10. (You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman 11. Hungover On Heartache 12. Til There’s Nothing Left 13. Burning House 14. Palace 15. It’s Cryin’ Time Performance date: 11th September 2018

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