Where do we start with Kip Moore? Since the release of his debut album ‘Up All Night’ back in 2012, he’s become one of the most popular acts with UK country fans, particularly as a live performer. He’s played at C2C multiple times – most recently second on the bill to Miranda Lambert in 2022 – as well as frequently touring here, and has won over audiences with his blend of country and rock. Now, following the release of his latest record ‘Damn Love’ last month, he’s back on the road including the headline slot at yesterday’s first ever Highways Festival in London.
Arriving on stage shortly after 9pm to The Band’s ‘Up On Cripple Creek’, Moore and his five-piece band opened their set with ‘Damn Love’, the title track from his new album. It’s a shimmering, keyboard-heavy, 80s-influenced number with a big soaring singalong chorus that made it an absolutely top-notch opener to the set and gave Moore a chance to show off the belt in his voice. The crowd were on their feet and singing along from the off and the roar they gave him when he finished the song
What followed was a whistle-stop two-hour tour through the last decade of Moore’s career, showcasing the range of his influences from the U2-esque ‘Fire And Flame’ to ‘Plead The Fifth’ with its driving vibe that put me in mind of classic Eagles and featured an outstanding acapella ending. Despite drawing on a wealth of musical history, he really does have a knack for bringing it all together and creating a unique sound that really connects with the audience. He also did a great job of encouraging them to dance and clap along (though to be fair they didn’t need that much help!), particularly on the likes of ‘The Bull’ where he could be spotted climbing on speakers and raising his arms in the air, as well as leading a singalong on fan favourites ‘Wild Ones’ and ‘That Was Us’ early in the set.
Elsewhere, hits like ‘Beer Money’, ‘She’s Mine’ and ‘More Girls Like You’ gave Moore and his band opportunities to show off their musical skills and deliver punchy vocals, with plenty of crowd backup too! Undoubtedly the best example of this was ‘Somethin’ ‘Bout A Truck’ which practically took the roof off the place, alongside a very impressive guitar riff intro. It showed that Moore is capable of switching up familiar songs to make them sound fresh and I liked that he put a bit of a different spin on things. He also threw in ‘Heart’s Desire’ from his album ‘Wild Ones’, which he dedicated to ‘the OG fans’ as the audience volume rose, as well as a take on ‘Come And Get It’ that saw him and his band-mates two-stepping alongside each other before dropping down to the floor to play the final riffs. The camaraderie between them is always a highlight of his shows and it really emphasises the solid connection between them all.
That said there was still plenty of space for the new music too. ‘Kinda Bar’ provided a rollicking, playful moment midway through the set with plenty of Moore’s trademark swagger, whilst ‘Peace And Love’ paired a mellow, synth-heavy vibe with wistful lyrics and ‘Heart On Fire’ featured a wicked solo from keyboard player Will! One particular highlight for me was ‘Another Night In Knoxville’, a rare moment where Moore broke away from his performance to tell the story behind the song and how he got his start performing in cover bands, before the audience lit up the room with their phones and swayed along. I loved the storytelling in the song as well as his intro and felt that’s something I would have liked to have heard more of from him.
After a rendition of ‘Last Shot’ – which saw the room light up again as Moore encouraged the audience to sing the final chorus – and a cover of Robbie Williams’ ‘Angels’, Moore finished the main portion of the set with the subdued ‘Micky’s Bar’, the closing track from ‘Damn Love’. The vivid details of the characters put me in mind of a rockier version of Billy Joel’s classic ‘Piano Man’ and I felt like he did a great job of drawing you into the scene – he really does have an incredible knack for a narrative. He and his band then briefly left the stage before the stomping and hollering for ‘one more song!’ from the crowd drew them back to play ‘Backseat’, a sultry ode to teenage romance.
Moore then closed the show with an acoustic version of ‘Guitar Man’, which has become something of a signature song for him over the years. He really injects a ton of authenticity into his delivery of the song – including breaking off midway through to tell a story about an ex who doubted he’d make it – and despite having heard it multiple times, it never gets old. As the song drew towards the end his bandmates crowded around him to sing along before taking their bows, waving a Union Jack flag aloft as they did so.
Overall Kip Moore showed exactly why he’s become so beloved by UK crowds and his incredible showmanship at Highways Festival. He’s still got fantastic stage presence and energy, making his songs sound as fresh as they did on first listen, and it was great to trace the thread of how his music has evolved over time. Pair that with powerful vocals and excellent guitar playing, and it all added up to finishing the festival on a complete high. If you’ve got tickets for the rest of his UK tour, then you’re in for a treat; if not, then here’s hoping he’ll be back over here very soon!
Set list: 1. Damn Love 2. Fire And Flame 3. Peace And Love 4. Crazy One More Time 5. Wild Ones 6. That Was Us 7. Plead The Fifth 8. Beer Money 9. Red White Blue Jean American Dream 10. Kinda Bar 11. She’s Mine 12. More Girls Like You 13. Heart On Fire 14. Another Night In Knoxville 15. The Bull 16. Heart’s Desire 17. Somethin’ ‘Bout A Truck 18. Come And Get It 19. Last Shot 20. Angels (Robbie Williams cover) 21. Micky’s Bar Encore: 22. Backseat 23. Guitar Man Performance date: 20th May 2023
See Kip Moore on the Damn Love World Tour in the UK this May:
Sunday 21 May – O2 Academy, Leeds
Wednesday 24 May – Sage, Gateshead
Thursday 25 May – O2 Ritz, Manchester
Friday 26 May – O2 Academy, Glasgow
Saturday 27 May – Botanic Gardens, Belfast
Highways Festival will return in 2024. For more information and to be the first to find out dates, line-ups and get early access to tickets, visit https://www.ticketmaster.co.uk/highwaysfest2024