Mitchell Tenpenny has been one of the rising stars of the country scene since he released his debut major label album, ‘Telling All My Secrets’, back in 2018. Since then he’s released the follow-up, ‘This Is The Heavy’, winning fans over with his blend of country and rock influences, and has also worked with artists including Chris Young, Seaforth and Morgan Evans. Now he’s finally making his long-awaited UK debut at C2C – having originally been due to play the 2020 festival which was cancelled due to the pandemic – including a stop at The O2 in London last night.
Tenpenny kicked off his set with ‘Good Place’, the opening track from ‘This Is The Heavy’. The hard-rocking, high-energy number got the crowd instantly on their feet singing and dancing along, as well as showing off the slight raw edge in his vocal. He followed that with the funky, playful ‘Always Something With You’, which highlighted his surprisingly soulful tones as well as a different side of him to those who were perhaps expecting a heavier set.
Throughout the performance one thing that stood out to me was how engaging Tenpenny was a performer. He held the crowd in the palm of his hand for the entire 50 minutes, roaming around the stage during some of the more lively numbers or pausing to tell stories about songs like the twangy ‘At The End Of A Bar’ (which he cut with Chris Young) that had a lovely richness about it and featured several classic song references before building into a big soaring chorus. He also frequently broke off to thank the audience for their raucous reception, particularly on the introspective ‘Bucket List’, which had the entire O2 clapping along as he described the show as ‘definitely a bucket list moment for us’.
For me some of the standout moments came in the slower numbers. An acoustic mash-up of Ben E King’s classic ‘Stand By Me’ and the 90s classic ‘I’ll Be Missing You’ was an early highlight, with the crowd turning on their phone lights and turning the whole of the O2 into a star-filled musical wonderland. Elsewhere, the detail-laden ‘Sleeping Alone’ showed off Tenpenny’s skills as a narrator, recent single ‘We Got History’ paired a rocky melody with a huge anthemic chorus that Tenpenny encouraged the crowd to sing along to ‘Alcohol You Later’, with its clever lyrical wordplay, featured some impressive vocal runs and a wicked guitar riff.
However, my favourite track of the night was ‘Truth About You’, which Tenpenny released as a single in 2021, reaching number two on Billboard’s Country Airplay chart. The biting song about an ex running their mouth gave Tenpenny the chance to show exactly what he can do vocally, belting out the track as well as an a capella ending that featured an absolutely enormous note! I have to admit I wasn’t expecting his voice to be so powerful live but he absolutely blew the crowd away and you could feel him pouring every ounce of emotion into the performance.
After playing his breakthrough track, the wistful ‘Drunk Me’, Tenpenny closed his set with another cover, this time blending Jimmie Allen’s ‘Best Shot’ with Goo Goo Dolls’ ‘Iris’ to emphasis the richer tones in his vocal. The audience lit up the arena once again as they sang along and he looked considerably impressed, telling that ‘that felt like church… like Nashville but better’. He then followed that with fan favourite ‘Bitches’, which also served as an intro to his band members.
Overall Mitchell Tenpenny certainly announced his arrival to the UK crowd with a bang. He showed off his impressive vocal range as well as the diverse influences in his sound, and wrapped it all up in an engaging performance with tons of energy. If the rumours are true, it might not be too long before we see him back in the UK again – and personally I can’t wait!
Set list: 1. Good Place 2. Always Something With You 3. Bucket List 4. Stand By Me/I’ll Be Missing You (Ben E King/Diddy/Faith Evans/112 cover) 5. Sleeping Alone 6. At The End Of A Bar 7. We Got History 8. Alcohol You Later 9. Truth About You 10. Drunk Me 11. Best Shot/Iris (Jimmie Allen/Goo Goo Dolls cover) 12. Bitches Performance date: 12th March 2023