It’s safe to say BRELAND has become one of the biggest new stars in country music. Since the release of his debut single, ‘My Truck’, back in 2019, he’s racked up over 150 million Spotify streams, and worked with the likes of Keith Urban, Thomas Rhett, Sam Hunt and Lady A. After winning over UK audiences with his performances at C2C in March and on tour with Russell Dickerson earlier this month, last night he played his first ever ‘BRELAND & Friends’ UK headline show at The Garage in London, following a format he’d first tried out in Nashville.
BRELAND bounded onto stage around 8.15 and kicked off his jam-packed set with ‘Out The Cage’, a song he recorded with Keith Urban for Urban’s 2020 album ‘The Speed Of Now Part 1’. He handled the rapid pace of the lyrics effortlessly and could be seen dancing around the stage, rocking out with his bandmates and encouraging the crowd to join in. I loved the sheer energy and joy he brought to the performance and it felt like a great way to open the show, with the deafening cheers from the crowd suggesting that they very much agreed!
For the next hour and a half, BRELAND mixed tracks from his debut album ‘Cross Country’ (released last month) with several covers, including a collaboration with Matt Stell that put a fresh twist on Deanna Carter’s 90s classic ‘Strawberry Wine’. He also invited several of his guests up to perform their own songs, with Caitlyn Smith delivering a gorgeous, emotional rendition of her song ‘High’ and Stell playing his ode to friends back home, ‘One Of Us’. It was a really nice additional way to include them in the set and show what they can do.
That said, there were still plenty of duets with a host of country stars, and some solo numbers from BRELAND too. The anthemic ‘Here For It’, with Laura Oakes taking the Ingrid Andress part, had a lovely warmth to it and some great harmonies, whilst Ben Earls of The Shires handled the Thomas Rhett section with aplomb on the high-energy ‘Praise The Lord’, which saw the audience throwing their hands up in the air and singing along at top volume. Among BRELAND’s solo songs, the 70s soul-influenced ‘County Line’ was crammed full of details, ‘Growing Pains’ provided a folky, upbeat moment with a message of hope to get through hard times and ‘Thick’ was a playful ode to curvy women which had BRELAND showing off his dance moves! I also really liked the bluesy groove of ‘Don’t Look At Me’ and 90s R’n’B-inspired slow jam ‘Alone At The Ranch’, as well as the funky ‘High Horse’ – it really shows BRELAND’s versatility as an artist. He even threw in an impromptu rap he’d made up on the Tube to the show with mentions of C2C and Tottenham Hotspur!
Whilst BRELAND had amazing energy on stage in the more upbeat numbers and kept things going for the entire time, for me I felt many of the set’s strongest moments were in the slower songs. Break-up ballad ‘Told You I Could Drink’, performed with Ward Thomas, had a beautiful blend of their three vocals and a real emotional pull about it, whilst his duet with Caitlyn Smith on ‘Cross Country’ absolutely soared in the space and had a wonderful sense of storytelling. Elsewhere, the bittersweet ‘Happy Song’ was surprisingly moving (yes I cried), ‘Good For You’ gave BRELAND a chance to show off the richer, soulful side of his voice as well as some impressive vocal tricks, and current single ‘For What It’s Worth’ practically dripped with nostalgia and regret. You really feel every ounce of emotion that he was pouring into the songs and it hugely strengthened his connection with the crowd too (another strength we saw on the likes of ‘Natural’, with its on-stage line dance, and ‘Beers On Me’ where he got audience members to shotgun beers against his guitarist Christian!).
After performing ‘Throw It Back’ with Una Healy, BRELAND closed the show with his debut single ‘My Truck’. He encouraged the crowd to join in – as they’d been doing all night – and even stepped down into the audience briefly to greet them. For me the song captured the funky, swaggering energy he’d had all night and it felt like a great way to finish the performance. As he left the stage, the crowd demanded another song, and he happily obliged with a second solo take on ‘Praise The Lord’, leading everyone in another singalong and ending the evening on an absolute high.
For me BRELAND delivered the best set of Country Music Week so far, with fantastic stage presence, high energy throughout and a versatile set that shows his skills as an entertainer and a vocalist. There was a great balance between the guest appearances and his own music, and I loved his connection with the audience as well. It was an absolute triumph and I can’t wait for him to come back over here and do a full headline tour soon! But in the meantime, there’s always C2C next year…
Set list: 1. Out The Cage 2. Here For It (with Laura Oakes) 3. County Line 4. Praise The Lord (with Ben Earls) 5. Growing Pains 6. Told You I Could Drink (with Ward Thomas) 7. London Rap 8. High Horse (Nelly cover) 9. Natural 10. Happy Song 11. Cross Country (with Caitlyn Smith) 12. High (performed by Caitlyn Smith) 13. Don’t Look At Me 14. One Of Us (performed by Matt Stell) 15. Strawberry Wine (Deanna Carter cover) (with Matt Stell) 16. Beers On Me 17. Good For You 18. Alone At The Ranch 19. For What It’s Worth 20. Thick 21. Throw It Back (with Una Healy) 22. My Truck Encore: 23. Praise The Lord Performance date: 21st October 2022