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Lauren Jenkins, O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London live review

The rising US country star has been opening for Brett Eldredge on his current UK tour.

Lauren Jenkins
Credit: Big Machine Records

It’s hard to believe that Lauren Jenkins released her debut album No Saint less than a year ago. Since the critically acclaimed record came out, her rise to the top has been nothing short of meteoric – certainly here in the UK, where country fans have completely taken her to their hearts. She’s rewarded their loyalty by making frequent trips to tour over here – including performing at C2C: Country to Country and a sold-out headline show at The Grace – and now she’s back supporting Brett Eldredge on his latest UK tour, which culminated in London last night.

Arriving on stage around 8pm, Jenkins opened her acoustic set with her recently released cover version of Bruce Springsteen’s Hungry Heart. Her husky, warm vocals suited the song perfectly and I liked her measured delivery too, which added more emotional weight to the track. It was a real showcase for her love of Springsteen as well as her ability to take a song and make it her own, and highlighted her distinctive voice really well.

Throughout the set Jenkins performed tracks from No Saint, as well as throwing in a bluesy, soaring cover of Oasis’ Champagne Supernova where she encouraged the crowd to join in. She also cracked self-deprecating jokes and mixed in stories behind her songs and how she got to where she is today. It made her come across as incredibly likeable and she definitely got the audience increasingly on side as the set went on.

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One thing which really stood out to me was the sheer range of styles in Jenkins’ music. You’ll Never Know had a pop-rock vibe about it, with quickfire delivery, tons of detail and a chorus which let her show off the belt in her voice, whilst the atmospheric Give Up The Ghost took me back to 90s rock and grunge and brought out a gravelly edge. Meanwhile, My Bar had a more traditional country twang and drawl to it, which balanced out the sassy, defiant lyrics.

For me the standout song was No Saint, the title track from Jenkins’ debut album. Despite the size of the venue, Jenkins made it feel like a really intimate moment as she performed the introspective, bittersweet song. Her stripped-back approach put the emphasis firmly on her vocals, which were full of raw emotion and conviction, particularly on the almost acapella bridge. It was a really powerful moment and one that will stay with me for a long time.

After thanking the crowd for coming out, Jenkins closed her set with Running Out Of Road. I felt it really summed up her skill as a songwriter, with vivid snapshots and road trip scenes realised brilliantly in the lyrics, and a wistful, resigned feel that added a level of uncertainty and strengthened the emotional connection of the song. The melody swung from folky touches to sharp, punchy chords and she could be seen raising her hands in the air as she finished the song.

Overall Jenkins is sure to have won over plenty of new fans with last night’s set as well as showing just why UK audiences fell in love with her in the first place. She commanded the stage, delivered a killer combination of great songwriting and distinctive vocals, and was engaging and energetic throughout. It all added up to a winning combination and personally I’m really excited to see what she does next. She promised to come back to the UK midway through her set, and now here’s hoping we don’t have too long to wait…

Set list: 1. Hungry Heart (Bruce Springsteen cover) 2. You’ll Never Know 3. Champagne Supernova (Oasis cover) 4. No Saint 5. Give Up The Ghost 6. My Bar 7. Running Out Of Road Performance date: 7th February 2020

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