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HomeEF CountryCaitlyn Smith, O2 Academy 2, London live review

Caitlyn Smith, O2 Academy 2, London live review

When she was 19, Caitlyn Smith packed up and drove the 14 hours from her native Minnesota to Nashville. She got her start writing songs for other artists – including the likes of Miley Cyrus, Meghan Trainor and Kenny Rogers – before breaking through as an artist on her own terms with the release of her 2018 debut album ‘Starfire’. Now, with two further albums under her belt – most recently ‘High’, which came out this April – and a string of winning performances at C2C in March, this week she was back in the UK for a short tour including a sold-out at O2 Academy2 in London.

Smith opened her solo acoustic show with ‘High’, the title track of her latest album. Her gorgeous clear vocals filled the space, shining against the simple arrangement of the song, and she hit some incredible notes on the soaring chorus too which balanced out the sweetness in her voice. The audience burst into cheers and applause as she finished the song and she raised her arms aloft, with a look of sheer joy on her face at their response.

Throughout the set Smith pulled from her previous three records. Tracks like the introspective ‘Do You Think About Me’ and lush romantic number ‘Put Me Back Together’ showed her versatility and the dreamy feel she builds in her music. She also played a number of the songs she’s written for other artists, including ‘Like I’m Gonna Lose You’ and ‘You Can’t Make Old Friends’, with the latter featuring a lovely story about how Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton eventually cut the song. She really put her own spin on the track, which she dedicated to the crowd and Rogers, and it felt like she’d made the songs completely her own.

Although most of the set was dedicated to slower tracks, there were still some great upbeat moments. ‘Downtown Baby’, the first single from ‘High’, had a great playful quality about it and a slinky energy from Smith, whilst the sultry ‘Contact High’ saw her deliver some fiery guitar playing that showed she’s a talented musician as well as a skilled lyricist. Elsewhere, the mid-tempo ‘I Can’t’ – Smith’s first radio single which she recorded with Old Dominion’ – had a smoky feel that wouldn’t have sounded out of place in a jazz bar, and her cover of Carole King’s classic ‘(You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman’ was full of soul and richness.

As well as a selection from her career, Smith also played two new songs – ‘Lately’, a bittersweet ballad reflecting on a lost love, and ‘Alaska’, a raw tale of realising that the person you’re with has already checked out of the relationship. The latter was a real standout in the set, with stunning vocal belt on the chorus from Smith and some impressive vocal runs too. If this is an indication of what’s coming for her in the future, then sign me up!

One thing which really stood out to me during Smith’s performance was her connection with the audience. She looked utterly thrilled at the reception she was getting, with the crowd whooping and singing along all the way through, and brought a real warmth to the stories she told on stage, whether that was about her journey to Nashville, her work producing ‘High’ (where she encouraged the crowd to try things even if it scared them) . I also loved how she wasn’t afraid to laugh at herself on ‘I Don’t Like The World Without You’ when she accidentally forgot the lyrics to the final verse. She’s got such a natural stage presence and definitely struck me as someone who’d be really fun to go for a glass of wine with.

For me one of the set highlights came with ‘This Town Is Killing Me’, which Smith wrote about her struggle to make it in Nashville. There was such a broken, delicate quality to how she delivered the song that felt incredibly moving, and I’ll admit that it had me shedding a tear. Latest single ‘Maybe In Another Life’ was another stunning moment, with Smith looking back on an old relationship and her subdued delivery really adding to the song’s downbeat, slightly melancholy feel. She brought a real sense of yearning to the song and it was a beautiful reflective moment.

Smith closed the set with ‘Tacoma’, another track from ‘Starfire’, to bring the evening full circle. It’s a heavy, atmospheric breakup song, which I felt brought out the slightly huskier tones in her voice as well as a lovely richness that fit beautifully with the emotional lyrics – plus one utterly standout note on the final chorus! For me it felt like the perfect way to finish the performance and showed just how good she is at pouring her heart into her lyrics and vocals – you really do believe every word she sings.

Overall Caitlyn Smith delivered a stunning evening of music. She promised at the start of the show “we’re gonna feel all the feels”, and she certainly delivered on that – we laughed, we cried and we danced, all to a backdrop of her beautiful voice and songs packed full of detail and storytelling. If I had one small criticism, it would have been that I’d have liked a couple more upbeat tracks, but vocally she was flawless and held the audience absolutely spellbound throughout. You really felt like you’d be drawn into her world and personally I was reluctant to leave – although hopefully she’ll be back over here again soon to share more of her music with us all.

Set list: 1. High 2. Do You Think About Me 3. Put Me Back Together 4. Like I’m Gonna Lose You 5. You Can’t Make Old Friends 6. This Town Is Killing Me 7. I Can’t 8. Downtown Baby 9. I Don’t Like The World Without You 10. Lately 11. Maybe In Another Life 12. Alaska 13. (You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman (Carole King cover) 14. Contact High 15. Tacoma Performance date: 20th October 2022

Laura Cooney
Laura Cooneyhttp://cherrysodablog.blogspot.com
Laura is a music and lifestyle blogger with a particular interest in country music, and occasional writer for Entertainment Focus.

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