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EF Country

Midland, Roundhouse, London live review

The country trio kicked off their UK tour in London after three and a half years away.

May 2022 has been dubbed ‘mad May’ by some UK country fans, owing to the sheer number of shows this month that have been rescheduled due to the pandemic. But arguably the most anticipated of those has been Midland, who’ve rearranged their tour four times since their last visit to the UK in December 2018. However, they’ve now finally been able to make it across the pond, kicking off their latest run with a sold-out show at London’s legendary Roundhouse.

After walking on stage to a clip that seemed to be lifted straight from an old Western movie, the trio walked on stage to huge cheers before launching into ‘Electric Rodeo’, from their debut album ‘On The Rocks’. Right from the off their energy was great and they showcased their fantastic harmonies and musicianship, with the crowd singing along to every word. They then followed that with ‘Out Of Sight’, a toe-tapping number that wouldn’t have sounded out of place in the 70s or 90s and highlighted their wordplay skills in its bittersweet lyrics, and the wistful ‘Burn Out’. Overall it showcased their versatility in delivering upbeat numbers as well as ballads and set the template for a great evening.

During the 19-song main set Mark promised the audience ‘old stuff, new stuff, some of theirs and some of ours’, which was exactly what we got. Despite it being less than five years since they released their first album, they’ve already amassed a huge back catalogue – much of which they haven’t played live yet in the UK – and the show absolutely did justice to that. I was particularly pleased to see the inclusion of fan favourites ‘Mr Lonely’ and ‘Playboys’ from 2019 album ‘Let It Roll’, both of which provided some great fun moments, as well as the uptempo ‘Cowgirl Blues’ from last year’s ‘The Sonic Ranch’. The latter wouldn’t have sounded out of place on any of their previous albums and I loved the nod back to their history. Meanwhile, the group’s take on Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Tougher Than The Rest’ showed their ability to make a song their own through the warmth in Mark’s vocals – as well as one incredible note! – and gave it a really heartfelt, genuine feel.

That said, there was plenty of space for songs from their new record, ‘The Last Resort: Greetings From’, which Mark delightedly announced is the current UK number one country album. A three-song section early in the set featured ‘Sunrise Tells The Story’, with the band’s vocals blending together perfectly to deliver the vivid details in the lyrics, before moving into the yearning ‘Take Her Off Your Hands’ and picking things up with ‘Two To Two Step’, which featured a soaring vocal from Mark and a tremendous sense of playfulness. Other standouts from the new record included the introspective ‘Adios Cowboy’ with its a capella moment and the island-infused title track, but for me the highlights were current single ‘Longneck Way To Go’ – which had the whole crowd singing around – and ‘And Then Some’. You could really hear the emotion in Mark’s voice and the song’s moving nature was really heightened in the live performance; I’m not ashamed to say I welled up a bit at that one.

One thing that struck me throughout the set was how much the band’s showmanship has developed. Mark in particular could be frequently seen slinking about the stage, shaking his hips – much to the thrill of a large section of the audience, particularly one move during ‘Cheatin’ Songs’ – and jamming with the backing band. Not to be outdone, Cameron and Jess were spotted clambering onto speakers at the front of the stage and throwing in plenty of spins, knee slides and leaps – with one particular highlight of the latter coming from Cameron at the end of his raw, gravelly rendition of Eddie Rabbitt’s ‘Drivin’ My Life Away’. Jess also got his moment to shine, taking on Garth Brooks’ ‘Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old)’ and showing off the richness and timbre in his voice.

After the cinematic ‘Put The Hurt On Me’ and a barnstorming rendition of the Jerry Reed classic ‘East Bound And Down’, the band left the stage with the crowd chanting their name, before returning for a five-song encore that kicked off with ‘Drinkin’ Problem’. Arguably their signature song, it really highlighted their clever lyrics and just how well their voices work together, with Mark encouraging the crowd to put their phone lights on and sway along. They then launched into the rollicking ‘Fourteen Gears’, which was followed by raucous renditions of the Springsteen classic ‘Dancing In The Dark’ – including Mark leaping down into the crowd! – and Tom Petty’s ‘Mary Jane’s Last Dance’. Taking their bows to ‘Sweet Caroline’, with the crowd singing back to them, you could really see how much this show meant to them and it felt like a perfect note to finish on.

Overall Midland were definitely worth the wait. They delivered a jam-packed, tight set that highlighted just how far they’ve come as performers since their last visit to the UK, whilst allowing them to show their talents as songwriters and musicians as well as some killer harmonies and the sheer range of styles they can pull off. All three of the band members looked like they were having a whale of a time throughout and from the audience reactions and chatter at the end, the feeling was definitely mutual. As the crowd chanted at the end of the show: so good, so good, so good!

Set list: 1. Electric Rodeo 2. Out Of Sight 3. Burn Out 4. Mr Lonely 5. Sunrise Tells The Story 6. Take Her Off Your Hands 7. Two To Two Step 8. Playboys 9. Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old) (Garth Brooks cover) 10. Cheatin’ Songs 11. And Then Some 12. Drivin’ My Life Away (Eddie Rabbitt cover) 13. Adios Cowboy 14. Tougher Than The Rest (Bruce Springsteen cover) 15. Longneck Way To Go 16. Cowgirl Blues 17. The Last Resort 18. Put The Hurt On Me 19. East Bound And Down (Jerry Reed cover) Encore: 20. Drinkin’ Problem 21. Fourteen Gears 22. Dancing In The Dark (Bruce Springsteen cover) 23. Mary Jane’s Last Dance (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers cover) 24. Sweet Caroline (singalong with crowd) Performance date: 21st May 2022

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See Midland on tour in the UK this month:

Sunday 22nd May – Birmingham, O2 Institute
Tuesday 24th May – Belfast, Ulster Hall
Wednesday 25th May – Glasgow, O2 Academy
Thursday 26th May – Sheffield, O2 Academy
Friday 27th May – Manchester, O2 Ritz

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