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Country Music Week 2019: Scotty McCreery, Bush Hall, London live review

The US country star and American Idol winner made his UK debut at a sold-out show last night.

Scotty McCreary
Credit: Triple Tigers/Sony Music

Originally from North Carolina, Scotty McCreery first came to many UK country fans’ attention when he won American Idol back in 2011, aged just 17. Since then he’s had three top five albums in the US – most recently 2018’s Seasons Change, which produced the chart-topping singles Five More Minutes and This Is It. Audiences here have been eagerly anticipating him performing in the UK and last night they finally got their chance to see him live, as he played the first of three UK shows as part of Country Music Week 2019.

Along with his four piece band, McCreery arrived on stages to huge cheers and applause from the audience. He opened with See You Tonight, from his 2013 album of the same name. The song was a perfect choice to start things off with its upbeat, slightly poppy vibe and showed off McCreery’s distinctive vocals. Right from the start he was dancing along on stage and the crowd were singing every word, which he looked completely blown away by.

Throughout his 90 minute performance McCreery played songs from across all three of his albums, as well as several classic country covers including a version of Garth Brooks’ Papa Loved Mama that showed off the belt in his voice, his spin on George Strait’s Check Yes Or No, and a full, rocky rendition of the Eagles’ classic Take It Easy. However the standout of these for me was a medley of country classics that covered everyone from Conway Twitty to John Michael Montgomery via Alan Jackson, Johnny Cash and Randy Travis. McCreery seemed completely at home belting these songs out and his voice felt like it could easily have come from any era alongside these greats.

One thing which struck me throughout the early part of McCreery’s set in particular was just how much energy he had. He rattled through uptempo numbers like Wherever You Are, the toe-tapping, thumping rhythm of In Between, Boys From Back Home with its touch of gravel in his vocals, the optimistic Seasons Change, Walk In The Country (supposedly inspired by Keith Urban), the rocky Bad For Good and thw laid-back  BlueJean Baby. Additionally, he frequently broke off to jam out with his band and encouraged the audience to join in throughout. He also came across as incredibly relaxed and friendly, telling stories about how he started out on American Idol as well as his wife and family.

However, some of McCreery’s best moments came during the slower songs. The detailed, romantic ballad This Is It, which McCreery wrote for his now-wife, was an early highlight (with the crowd singing a version after he had to fix his microphone stand!). Meanwhile, Home In My Mind was full of emotion and performed with huge conviction by McCreery, particularly on the soaring chorus, Love You This Big saw him bring a fan on stage to join him and The Trouble With Girls gave him a chance to show off some impressive vocal runs with its tongue-in-cheek lyrics.

For me the absolute standout moment of the set was Five More Minutes. McCreery introduced as ‘the song that changed my life’ before talking very movingly about his grandfather who inspired it. It’s got a great anthemic feel about it and I love the storytelling in the lyrics, giving you snippets of the character’s life. The audience sang along to every word and he got the loudest cheer of the night when he finished the song.

McCreery closed the main portion of his set with the uptempo Feelin’ It. Almost rapping the quickfire lyrics in places, in contrast to the traditional country instruments he’d used throughout his set, he had the crowd clapping, dancing and joining in on the huge singalong chorus. As he finished the song and walked off stage, he was met with a volley of applause and loud demands for an encore, which he happily obliged with a cover of Josh Turner’s Your Man. It’s the song that started it all for him on American Idol and still suits his voice and personality absolutely perfectly, combining a light, playful feel with plenty of depth and drawl.

Overall Scotty McCreery made it worth the wait for UK fans with one of the standout performances of Country Music Week so far. He delivered a high-energy, fun and entertaining show with plenty of personality, excellent vocals and warm, easy-going stage presence, all adding up to create an absolutely electric atmosphere at Bush Hall. It’s clear that the UK audiences absolutely love him and based on their response last night hopefully it won’t be too long before he’s back here – and playing to even bigger venues…

Set list: 1. See You Tonight 2. Wherever You Are 3. Boys From Back Home 4. Mama Loved Papa (Garth Brooks cover) 5. This Is It 6. Seasons Change 7. Take It Easy (Eagles cover) 8. In Between 9. Check Yes Or No (George Strait cover) 10. You Make That Look Good 11. The Trouble With Girls 12. Walk In The Country 13. Blue Jean Baby 14. Five More Minutes 15. Hello Darling (Conway Twitty cover)/Forever And Ever Amen (Randy Travis cover)/Folsom Prison Blues (Johnny Cash cover)/Chattahoochee (Alan Jackson cover)/Sold (The Grundy County Auction Incident) (John Michael Montgomery cover) 16. I Love You This Big 17. Home In My Mind 18. Feelin’ It 19. Your Man (Josh Turner cover) Performance date: 26th October 2019

See Scotty McCreery live in the UK this October:

Sunday 27 October – Academy 2, Manchester
Monday 28 October – Bush Hall, London (SOLD OUT)

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