After her triumphant set at last year’s The Long Road festival we were very excited to see the return of Lindsay Ell to the UK for the Sunday night of the C2C festival in London. Last year she blew us away with the power and bombast of her festival appearance in Leicestershire, super-sizing her sound and sonics to fantastic effect in order to engage and delight a crowd of fans that weren’t necessarily hers.
Taking the stage in black leathers and heels at the O2 arena, Lindsay was all 60’s vamp. Her green nails and green guitar strings did a good job of helping her stand out and make a statement, something that is important to do when there is only a three piece up on an arena stage and the vocalist is also the guitarist. The drawback there is that the visuals often aren’t as strong for a performance like this because the vocalist has to spend the lions share of their time on stage rooted to a microphone – Chris Stapelton’s live shows have always suffered a little from this aspect although the power and passion of his vocals is enough to mitigate for any loss of vibrancy.
Lindsay Ell’s USP is her guitar playing and she will often add in extended solos and energetic outros to what are, essentially, three minute Pop songs, turning them into altogether different beasts in the live setting. Opening with ‘Right on Time’, Ell hit the arena stage in a swirl of drums and big, catchy Pop-Country vibes. Her performance throughout was slick, passionate and engaging to watch. It lacked a little of the raw energy and huge notes of last year’s ‘Long Road’ festival bonanza but that wasn’t the vibe Ell was aiming for this time round. This performance was more restrained yet visual in a different way. Less Rock ‘n’ Roll excess and more anthemic arena appreciation.
‘Body Language of a Break Up’ included a nice, funky bass breakdown segment which segued into a drum solo and was a perfect example of what Ell was trying to do up on the O2 stage. It’ a simple, infectious song but live it turned into something much bigger than the sum of its parts, with all three musicians getting a little moment in the spotlight. Indeed, Ell even spoke to the crowd about wanting to turn the O2 into a living room at one point as she continued to play engaging songs with a slick, effortless precision.
‘Hits Me’ and ‘Good On You’ were delivered with energetic aplomb. The latter saw Ell referencing her break up of a few years ago now with Bobby Bones. She spoke at length about how she saw pictures of him online with ‘another beautiful blonde’ and how it hurt to see him so happy. The lyrics of ‘Good On You’ are so personal it was hard not to be moved by Ell’s performance whilst ‘Hits Me’ began with slight retro sounding disco vibes before it settled into something more Blues influenced. The solos were there but they were more restrained than her performance at last year’s Long Road festival. Less histrionics more focus on the song was the watchword of this set.
‘Every time I Look at You’, the song she wrote with Corey Wong, had classy, 80s style production sensibilities to it which sounded great in what is essentially an aircraft hangar. Similarly, ‘How Good’ was all funky bass, guitar licks and bouncy, infectious vibes. A cracking solo from Ell and an a cappella finish elicited a huge cheer from the crowd and a big grin on the face of Lindsay Ell too.
The best two songs of a set that seemed to be inexplicably missing ‘What Happens in a Small Town’, were reserved for the closing climax. ‘I Don’t Love You’ and ‘Criminal’ are two very different beasts. The former is a diva-like ballad. When Ell plays it live she allows a little more grit and gravel in her vocals to seep through on the chorus like a young Chrissie Hynde! ‘I Don’t Love You’ also brought out the cellphone lights and gave Ell the chance for another guitar solo moment in the spotlight. ‘Criminal’ finished off the set in style. I’ve never not seen Lindsay Ell play this song and I’ve never not enjoyed it! This time was no different. Ell delivered the track with enthusiasm and passion and in an effort to not always be rooted to the microphone, the guitar solo gave her the opportunity to go for a wander around the stage too.
Lindsay Ell’s debut C2C performance was one of passion and precision. It was well thought out in terms of song choices. Brave, too, considering some of the older, stronger songs that she decided not to play, but it worked. It was a visual feast in terms of engagement and whilst it might have lacked some of the Rock ‘n’ Roll excesses of her 2022 Long Road set, that wasn’t what she was aiming for here. This show was about an overall vibe: it was a chance to put melody before brash, guitar hero stylings. It was a set all about the songs and the choruses and it was designed to engage an arena of more casual Country music fans who might be more unfamiliar with the body of Lindsay Ell’s work. Song first, visuals next, engagement key. Objective achieved.
Track list: 1. Right on Time 2. How Good 3. Body Language of a Break Up 4. Every time I look at You 5. Good On You 6. Sweet Spot 7. Hits Me 8. I Don’t Love You 9. Criminal Venue: O2 Arena, London Date: Sunday 12th March