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Country to Country

Glasgow OVO Hydro Arena (Saturday review)

It's Saturday afternoon, the restaurant and bars of Finnieston Street Glasgow are awash with tassel shirts, cowboy hats and boots. Europes biggest country music festival Country to Country is in town, on day two of three. This is it's eighth year of delivering fans a huge fix of country music, certainly enough to fulfil them up until next time it comes around again, and oh boy do they need it after a two year hiatus due to the pandemic.

Country to Country has been delighting fans since 2013, when it originally launched as a two day event at Londons O2. In 2014 it also launched in Dublin taking place on the same weekend as the London event, with artists switching venues each day. By 2016 Country to Country had grew into a three days event over Glasgow, London and Dublin, selling out across all arenas, showing just how much at home country music is across the UK and Ireland.

Arriving in front of the OVO Hydro it feels like I'm stepping into a Spielbergian close encounter – only this time it’s beaming us straight to Nashville. There's a real sense of the excitement and relief from queuing fans from who have come from all over Scotland and Northern England to be here.

Tonight the Glasgow audience is entertained by;

  • Introducing Nashville - Priscilla Block, Tiera Kennedy, Morgan Wade

  • Brittney Spencer (Spotlight Stage)

  • Russell Dickerson

  • Erin Kingsley (Spotlight Stage)

  • Kip Moore

  • Miranda Lambert

Kick-starting the Saturday programme is a trio of talented artists named “Introducing Nashville”, which is exactly what they do perfectly. Priscilla Block; funny and happy yet defiant in her tales of heartbreak, she appears reflective when referring to recent struggles, and proud of her subsequent achievements. Morgan Wade; slightly more sombre in tone but similarly aware of how far she has come. This is evident when speaking of her first radio single “Wilder Days” which has the crowd instinctively joining in. Tiera Kennedy; self-confessed hopeless romantic who recently got married to her childhood sweetheart, she sings with an air of optimism and devotion. Each sat with a smile and a guitar, they give the audience a warm welcome and a taste of their individual styles, whilst the acoustics bounce around the giant space effortlessly.

It quickly becomes apparent that the music never stops, as there is a brief introduction and seamless transition straight to the next artist, Brittney Spencer. Standing in the middle of the arena, away from the main stage, she sings beautifully with all eyes fixed on her as the main stage is magically prepared what comes next. It is well choreographed and certainly adds to the festival feel. I've a huge respect for the organisers of Country to Country, they’re experts in delivering a fast paced slick show.

After nipping out, I come back to a completely different vibe. Gone are the slow tempo country songs, suddenly there is a pop concert going on. Russell Dickerson ups the tempo and has everyone on their feet clapping and dancing. With the classic traits of a frontman, he is charismatic and full of enthusiasm, working up the crowd to sing along and follow his lead. Towards the end of his set, he really ramps it up with a medley of pop covers sitting within the middle of "Girls Night Out" lights flashing across the venue designed to squeeze every bit of energy out of his willing fans.

Next up are the delicious vocals of social media star Erin Kinsey, who admits it was the likes of YouTube and Tik Tok which helped to launch her career; her first single “Drunk Too” having gone viral on the latter. Her set is short, and I'd of liked to have heard more before she made way for the multi-platinum singer/songwriter Kip Moore.

While Russell Dickerson brought the pop, Kip brings the rock. With four studio albums under his belt, there is no denying he has everything he needs to put on a fantastic show and there’s something almost Bryan Adams-esque about his sound. Alongside his superb vocals is an impressive lightshow with stage smoke drifting through, adding to the electric atmosphere. Stopping only for a swig of Jack Daniels, he keeps the music going. Kips not one for the talk, and appears genuinely moved by the warm reception and prolonged applause while speaking of his love his grandfather had for Scotland and the special place it now holds in his heart. Taking this moment from his nonstop set, he tell us of an emotional dream he had featuring his grandfather, grandmother, and father, set within Scotland. The story bringing hims to tears, with the audience showing supports with cheers of encouragement, it's a truly unique emotional moment felt by all. Mobile phone lights float around the arena like fireflies, and voices everywhere unite in appreciation.

No spotlight set this time around, a pause is finally given to the audience giving enough time to refill and refresh.

Last but most certainly not least is multi award winner Miranda Lambert. Strutting and shimmying across the stage in her boots & tassels, she presents herself as a multi-talented proud Texan. With a huge fan following, there is excitement and jubilation in the crowd as they sing, dance and clap wildly. Just when you think a song has finished, she keeps it going a while longer, and receives a particularly rapturous applause when introducing her song “Tin Man”, which suddenly brought the fireflies back to life. Miranda's set delivers beautiful well crafted videos on the large screens centre stage, which perfectly compliment the story being told. After slowing the tempo right down, she ends on a high with back to back upbeat tunes. Her aptly titled last song, “Drunk (And I Don’t Wanna Go Home)” sums up the mood in the arena – everyone is having a great time and there is no doubt they would happily keep the party going.

photos provided by Country to Country

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