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Matt Stell – O2 Arena, London: C2C festival live review

Things are good for Matt Stell right now. He rode into London to make his debut on the main stage of the O2 Arena at the C2C festival on the back of his ‘One Of Us’ EP, which is easily the strongest release of his career to date. If you want to know why we think that, please read our review of the EP right here.

Stell is becoming a regular visitor to the UK now after playing the Spotlight stage at the festival last year and doing a co-headlining tour with Elvie Shane last Autumn too. His guitar-leaning brand of powerful, commercial Country music is a perfect fit for a festival that prides itself on showcasing the best that Nashville has to offer.

Taking the stage to loud cheers, a slow, rhythmic opening eventually led into ‘One of Us’ as Matt Stell’s imposing 6ft 7inch figure loomed over the microphone in a very deliberate and focused way. The song and the moment reminded me of Kip Moore’s breakout performance at C2C back in 2015 with his song ‘Wild Ones’. Mid-tempo, slow and melodic, ‘One of Us’ is an incredibly inclusive song and a great concert opener as long as it is followed up with something higher in tempo……….which it was!

‘This One’s Gonna Hurt’ followed ‘One of Us’ with its catchy guitar riff and Stell’s guitar player, with his sparkly green guitar and spiky haircut, giving off all sorts of Rascal Flatts vibes. You could sense the arms beginning to go up in the air as ‘This One’s Gonna Hurt’ progressed through and people began to realise that Stell is the real deal.

When you have a singer or a frontman that plays a lot of guitar and is therefore rooted to the front of stage microphone you need to rely on a backing band of players to bring an energy and vibrancy that seeps through into the audience and Stell has that with his band. ‘That Ain’t Me No More’ began as a big, drum-driven anthem before settling into something more akin to its recorded version and we also saw some more guitar histrionics from Stell’s main player.

Matt Stell
Credit: Anthony Mooney

When freed of guitar duties, Matt Stell stalks the stage like a caged lion, punching his fists and clearly getting emotionally lost within his own songs at times. Songs like ‘If I Was a Bar’ and ‘Sadie’ were delivered with a power and a passionate befitting of an arena performance as Stell criss-crossed the stage like a man possessed. ‘Boyfriend Season’ was suitably huge as was “Everywhere But On’. That song included a nice a cappella breakdown where the bands vocals echoed around the arena in fine style.

Stell’s whole set built nicely to a triple whammy finish of powerful, impactful moments. A superb medley of ‘Church on Cumberland Road’, ‘All the Small Things’ and ‘Mr Brightside’ had the crowd up and dancing and then Stell brought out ‘Prayed For You’, which finished with the arena lit up by cellphone lights and a segment of ‘Champagne Supernova’ to boot before he closed out the set with what I think is his best song and future number one hit, ‘Shut the Truck Up’.

Stell’s C2C arena debut was all about power, passion and precision. There were no wasted moments or flabby sections in his set and watching it felt almost like a choreographed piece of art in terms of how everything neatly fitted together and how the songs all seemed to compliment and build upon each other. The cover choices were inspired and I was left wanting more at the end, which is something Stell also managed to achieve on his new EP, ‘One of Us’ as well. A bright future beckons for this impactful and powerful artist and we can’t wait to see him back on these shores for more shows, either later this year or early next.

Track list: 1. One of Us 2. This One’s Gonna Hurt 3. That Ain’t Me No More 4. When You Know 5. Everywhere But On 6. Sadie 7. `If I was a Bar 8. Boyfriend Season 9. Church on Cumberland Road – All The Small Things – Mr Brightside 10. Prayed For You 11. Shut the Truck Up Venue: O2 Arena, London Date: Saturday 11th March

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Things are good for Matt Stell right now. He rode into London to make his debut on the main stage of the O2 Arena at the C2C festival on the back of his 'One Of Us' EP, which is easily the strongest release of...Matt Stell - O2 Arena, London: C2C festival live review