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American Young, Bush Hall, London live review

American Young
Credit: American Young

Singer-songwriters Kristy Osmusson and Jon Stone – AKA American Young – have been rapidly gaining in popularity over here since the release of their first album, AY, back in 2016. They’ve become a regular fixture at many festivals in the UK country scene, including Nashville Meets London, C2C: Country to Country and Buckle & Boots, which they headlined earlier this year. Now, following the release of their latest EP Soundtrack Of Your Life, they’re back for a short tour which kicked off last night at Bush Hall in London.

Accompanied by their two band members, Kristy and Jon opened their set with American Dream, from their debut album. Right from the off they showed off their incredible musicianship, with Kristy in particular shining on the atmospheric, fiddle-led intro as her fingers flew over the instrument’s neck. Jon encouraged the crowd to clap along to the sharp, driving rhythm before he and Kristy began to sing, and their harmonies were on point as usual. It was a great start to the show and definitely set the bar for the next hour and 40 minutes.

Throughout the set the band drew on material from both their album and the new EP, as well as mixing in several covers. These ran the gamut from the traditional Cotton-Eyed Joe (which they paired with a soaring acoustic rendition of Love Is War) to a mash-up of the lush, heartstring-tugging Die Another Day with the Disney classic Can You Feel The Love Tonight, via a jazzy take on Just The Two Of Us and Jon’s funky, powerful rendition of the Rolling Stones’ Beast Of Burden. For me the standouts were the pair’s version of Keith Whitley’s When You Say Nothing At All, which featured a simple arrangement and gorgeous vocals that made the song incredibly moving, and a shouldn’t-work-but-did sparse spin on The Thunder Rolls and The Boys Of Summer, which saw Kristy and Jon rocking out with their band in a fiery and powerful performance.

Whilst the diverse selection of covers showed off the duo’s versatility, their original material was where they really shone for me. Whether it was the emotional, piano-led Better On You or a lively, playful track like Point Of View or Something To You, which undercut its bright melody with bittersweet lyrics, their effortless vocals were absolutely stellar and they had fantastic chemistry throughout, frequently cracking jokes and telling stories. I also liked that both Kristy and Jon got their chances to stand out – Kristy on the quickfire Cheater, Cheater (which she wrote for Joey + Rory) where her sweet vocals counterbalanced the sassy lyrics, and Jon on a heartfelt rendition of A Woman Like You that highlighted the edge and depth in his voice.

I was also really impressed with the new material, particularly the laid-back, rock-influenced Falling Star, which saw Kristy pacing the stage as she jammed with the band. Seminole Wind, meanwhile, is rapidly becoming a fan favourite (as evidenced by the numerous requests from the audience) with its slow, lingering intro, dramatic storytelling, thumping rhythm and vivid imagery. It showed that the band are willing to experiment and push themselves, and I’m keen to see where this takes them on their next record.

Kristy and Jon closed the main part of their set with Soundtrack Of Your Life, the title track from their new EP. For me it summed up everything I loved about their performance – tons of energy, hopeful lyrics packed full of details and a joyous singalong chorus. Kristy could be seen holding her bow aloft in triumph as the song drew to a close and the crowd responded with thunderous applause.

After loud demands for an encore, the band returned to the stage to perform their final three songs, beginning with Kenny Rogers’ The Gambler. Kristy’s spiky fiddle was the perfect accompaniment to Jon’s soulful vocals and I also really liked how they built the layers of instruments, as well as encouraging the audience to join in. They then followed that with a beautiful version of Soldier’s Wife, which saw Kristy hit some huge notes and deliver an incredibly convincing, passionate performance, as well as a stunning a capella section at the end. Finally, they finished on Wake Me Up, which had the crowd singing and dancing along to the stomping rhythm and twangy guitars before rattling to the finish at breakneck speed.

Overall I came away feeling really impressed by American Young. The connection between Kristy and Jon on stage is absolutely electric and they show it off to perfection through their outstanding musicianship and relaxed, easygoing stage presence which makes it incredibly easy for audiences to warm to them. Throw in a high-energy performance which looks like they’re having the time of their lives and those incredible harmonies, and it’s not hard to see why they’re so beloved here in the UK. They get better every time I see them and based on the new music they’re set for even bigger things in the future.

Set list: 1. American Dream 2. Better On You 3. Point Of View 4. Cheater, Cheater (made famous by Joey + Rory) 5. A Woman Like You (made famous by Lee Brice) 6. Beast Of Burden (Rolling Stones cover) 7. Cotton-Eyed Joe (traditional cover)/Love Is War 8. When You Say Nothing At All (Keith Whitley cover) 9. Falling Star 10. The Thunder Rolls/The Boys Of Summer (Garth Brooks/Don Henley cover) 11. Something To You 12. Just The Two Of Us (Bill Withers cover) 13. Die Another Day/Can You Feel The Love Tonight (Elton John cover) 14. Seminole Wind 15. Soundtrack Of Your Life 16. The Gambler (Kenny Rogers cover) 17. Soldier’s Wife 18. Wake Me Up (Avicii cover) Performance date: 29th August 2019

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