It’s no secret that we at EF Country have been Morgan Evans fans ever since he made his UK debut here back in 2017 at the much-missed Borderline. Since then, the Aussie-born country singer has crossed the pond numerous times to play for audiences – most recently last July when he stopped off en route to support Brad Paisley in Europe. Now, after finding a wave of success with his emotional latest single ‘Over For You’, he was back as part of C2C: Country to Country, performing second on the main stage at the O2 Arena last night.
Accompanied by his three band members, Evans arrived on stage to an atmospheric intro that distorted his uptempo hit Young Again with vocal echoes and fuzzy guitars before launching into the song. Right from the off he brought a ton of energy to his performance, bouncing around the stage and feeding off the crowd who were singing along to every word. It was clear this was a performance where he wanted to let loose and the song certainly set the template for that with its driving beat and anthemic chorus.
Throughout the set Evans frequently focused on his more upbeat numbers, including the playful Kiss Somebody – which saw him hit an impressively huge note! – the twangy, bright Sing Along Drink Along, and his funky, rocking take on ‘Love Is Real’, which also featured a sing-off between opposite sides of the arena. He also performed a brand new song, ‘Hey Little Mama’, which had a fun surfy groove and a big soaring chorus that is practically begging to be blasted from radios in a summer heatwave. During the show he often broke off to encourage the crowd to clap and sing along (not that they needed much of it!) and to express how much he was enjoying the performance, calling it ‘one of the most fun shows I’ve played in a long time’. It’s obvious he loves playing to UK crowds and the feeling seems to be mutual.
However, for me two of the standout moments were the slower tracks. ‘Over For You’, which Evans intro-ed with a keyboard-led snippet of Bonnie Raitt’s ‘I Can’t Make You Love Me’, provided a moving centrepiece to the set. Before playing the song he spoke very openly and honestly about the experiences which led him to write the song (which, in his words ‘felt like the saddest song in the world’). His raw rendition of it felt like an absolute emotional gut punch and, whilst it was clearly still difficult for him to sing, the crowd’s warm reaction showed the impact it’s clearly having on audiences. I also loved ‘Things That We Drink To’, which Evans dedicated to his late manager as well as ‘anyone that’s missing somebody’. The crowd responded by lighting up the arena with their phone lights as he delivered the song’s evocative, introspective lyrics, before mixing it with Coldplay’s ‘Fix You’.
Evans closed his set with ‘Day Drunk’, mashed up with Snoop Dogg’s ‘Young Wild And Free’. I felt the song summed up the set perfectly – its bluesy groove showed his willingness to try new things, whilst the lively melody and carefree lyrics ensured the crowd got on their feet, swaying and singing along. As Evans brought the song to a close, he dropped to his knees whilst playing his guitar, before rising to his feet and holding it over his head to roars of approval. It was a great ending to the performance and left everyone – including him – absolutely buzzing.
Overall Morgan Evans delivered a triumphant C2C performance with the perfect amount of energy and fun, as well as showing his growth and depth as a songwriter who can deliver a heart-wrenching ballad as easily as a summery dance number. He did a great job at keeping the audience up ahead of the other festival performances whilst also building excitement for his new music. As he left the stage, he told the audience that he wanted ‘to come back and play music here for a long, long time’. Based on this set, I suspect it won’t be too much longer before we see him back here again – and we’ll be very glad when he does!”
Set list: 1. Young Again 2. Kiss Somebody 3. Sing Along Drink Along 4. I Can’t Make You Love Me (Bonnie Raitt cover)/Over For You 5. Love Is Real 6. Things That We Drink To/Fix You (Coldplay cover) 7. Hey Little Mama 8. Day Drunk/Young Wild And Free (Snoop Dogg/Whiz Khalifa/Bruno Mars cover) Performance date: 11 March 2023