It’s safe to say that Tenille Arts is a big fan of the UK. The Canadian-born, Nashville-based artist has made three trips over here in less than 12 months, playing at C2C 2022 as well as her own headline tour in the summer. This week she returned for a whistle-stop visit, performing at Song Suffragettes in Camden on Wednesday before playing a headline show to a sold-out Omeara in London.
Arriving on stage just after 9PM in a fringed jacket and with her trademark pink rhinestone guitar in hand, Arts opened her solo set with ‘Back Then, Right Now’, the lead track from her 2021 album ‘Girl To Girl’. She had great energy from the start, delivering the upbeat, nostalgic song in a way that showed off the richness in her voice as well as some impressive vocal tricks. The crowd sang along to every detail in the lyrics (and didn’t stop for the rest of the show!) and burst into cheers and applause when she finished, setting the template for the rest of the night.
For the next hour and 20 minutes, Arts mixed tracks from her two previous records with a few choice covers, including her take on The Chicks’ classic ‘Wide Open Spaces’ and a mash-up of Taylor Swift’s ‘Love Story’ with her own tale of young love, ‘Wildfire and Whiskey’. She also took the opportunity to delve into some deeper cuts such as the wistful ‘Right Guy Wrong Time’, from 2020’s ‘Love, Heartbreak and Everything In Between’. It’s really nice to see an artist mixing their set up in this way and the audience definitely seemed to appreciate it.
That said, there was also space for new tracks alongside the older numbers. Current US radio single ‘Jealous Of Myself’ was a particular highlight, with Arts’ vocals soaring over the plaintive piano melody as she wrung every drop of emotion out of the lyrics. Elsewhere, fan favourite ‘Motel On The Moon’ featured a gorgeous dreamy melody and a sense of yearning that didn’t so much tug at the heartstrings as try and yank them out of your chest.
Throughout the performance, one thing that stood out to me was the sheer variety of styles Arts packs into her set. Whether it was showing her sassy side on the playful ‘Heartbreak Regulars’, reflecting on returning to an ex-lover on ‘Over You Is You’, rocking out on ‘Give It To Me Straight’ or wowing with her vocal runs on the opening to her breakthrough hit ‘I Hate This’, she showed how versatile she is as an artist. It’s a real skill to be able to turn your hand to so many different styles and she pulls it all off effortlessly.
One of the surprising highlights of the show was Arts’ piano playing. Despite her nerves, she produced a soaring rendition of breakup-song-with-a-twist ‘Missing You’ as well as a stunning version of Adele’s ‘Easy On Me’ that saw her hit some huge notes and show off the impressive belt in her voice. Other standout tracks included ‘Growing Old Young’, her moving depiction of the challenges facing young people growing up – proceeded by a speech about wanting to advocate for mental health that drew huge cheers from the audience – as well the frank sisterly advice song ‘Girl To Girl’ with its big catchy chorus and body positivity anthem ‘That’s My Friend You’re Talking About’.
Arts closed her set with her first number one hit, ‘Somebody Like That’. For me the track summed up her whole performance, with its joyful feeling, singalong chorus and big powerful vocals that she knew how to deploy at exactly the right time. After a volley of applause and thunderous cheers from the crowd, she then returned to the stage shortly afterwards to play a new song, ‘Last Time Last’. The song has a really fun, playful, nostalgic vibe and I can’t wait to hear a recorded version of it – it feels like a really exciting indication of where she’s going musically.
Overall Tenille Arts delivered a brilliant, accomplished set that showed off her range as an artist and her incredible vocals. She seems to grow in her stage presence every time I see her live, coming across as warm and engaging throughout and cracking jokes about everything from jetlag to growing up on a wheat farm (emphasis on wheat!). Throughout the performance she broke off to talk about how much she felt appreciated by the UK crowd, at one point saying ‘real friends show up and you guys show up’. Based on this performance, whenever she comes back over here – and I hope that’s sooner rather than later – there’ll be even more of them showing up in spades.
Set list: 1. Back Then, Right Now 2. Girl To Girl 3. Wide Open Spaces (The Chicks cover) 4. Give It To Me Straight 5. Heartbreak Regulars 6. Missing You 7. Easy On Me (Adele cover) 8. Wildfire And Whiskey / Love Story (Taylor Swift cover) 9. Over You Is You 10. Motel On The Moon 11. Right Guy Wrong Time 12. Growing Old Young 13. That’s My Friend You’re Talking About 14. I Hate This 15. Jealous Of Myself 16. Somebody Like That Encore: 17. Last Time Last Performance date: 2nd February 2023