Three days after an incredible concert and I’m sitting in front of my laptop, still buzzing a little and trying to figure out how best to put into words just what an amazing night I had at Nashville In Concert in Dublin’s 3Arena. After religiously watching four seasons of the country music drama that had brought the spirit of country music in Nashville to my TV screen (and indeed my Spotify account), I finally got the chance to see these fantastic artists on stage, and I couldn’t have been more excited.
The original bill listed Chris Carmack (Will Lexington), Charles Esten (Deacon Claybourne), Clare Bowen (Scarlett O’Connor) and Sam Palladio (Gunnar Scott) as the performers of the evening, and whilst we were missing a few of my favourites, this was a pretty damn good line-up. The fab four took to the stage in turn, kicking things off with one of their original songs from the show – my favourite was Chris Carmack’s show opener ‘What If I Was Willing’, which overflowed with energy and set the tone for the night.
Amazing as it was, I couldn’t help missing Jonathan Jackson (Avery Barkley), but my Facebook stalking had told me that he was touring in the USA with his band, Enation, and had been playing a gig in Charlotte the night before – or so we thought…
Jonathan’s big entrance was the first of the surprises, and I genuinely thought I might burst with excitement as he walked onto the stage, performing ‘Kinda Dig The Feeling’.
Later, we got another surprise, when the gorgeous Chaley Rose (look at that hair!!) joined Jonathan and Sam on stage for a performance of ‘Ain’t Leaving Without Your Love’, which just so happens to be one of my favourites.
The gang sang their way through some of Nashville’s best hits, including ‘Fade Into You’, ‘No One Will Ever Love You’ and ‘Borrow My Heart’, but our Nashville favourites were only the beginning of what we would hear that night.
The beauty of Nashville – as far as I can see it anyway – is that not only has it brought back that edge to country music, but it has given these stars a HUGE platform, to the point where they have been welcomed into the arms of The Grand Ole Opry alongside some country music legends. With this in mind, it was the perfect time for the artists to treat us to some of their very own music, bringing their sound to the international stage and offering the intimacy of Nashville’s Blubird Cafe to an arena full of fans.
Among the highlights were Jonathan Jackson’s magnificently powerful version of ‘Love Rescue Me’, which he first debuted at the Opry; Sam Palladio’s heart-warming tribute to his grandfather’s ‘one that got away’; and Charles Esten’s ‘He Ain’t Me’, a tongue-in-cheek number inspired by Nashville’s Rayna, Luke and Deacon love triangle – someone was obviously very committed to Team Deacon!
But the most touching of all these performances undoubtedly came from Clare Bowen, firstly with an Irish-inspired original dedicated to her late grandfather; and secondly with ‘Love Steps In’ a deeply personal song written for her brother, Timothy Bowen, who is currently battling cancer. This one got a well-deserved standing ovation, and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
In true Nashville style, the group had come armed with a dedicated song to close the show, bringing all of the artists back on stage for the final number; but they couldn’t resist returning for ‘A Life That’s Good’, a song that has become an anthem and cornerstone of the show itself.
I’ve been to a lot of gigs and concerts, but my favourite always tend to be the ones that bring something different to the stage, and those that leave a little bit of their personality behind, and Nashville In Concert delivered on both counts. We heard duets, trios and solos; everything from acoustic country to the blues; and watched our favourite TV stars set down the mic and pick up guitars, drumsticks and even the saxophone.
But the beauty of this concert lay in their connection with the crowd. We laughed as Charles Esten was less than enamoured with the number of Luke Wheeler fans in the audience, celebrated Jonathan Jackson’s 14th wedding anniversary with him, smiled as Sam Palladio recounted the tale of his grandfather’s first love, and shed a tear when Clare Bowen chose to share with us the story of her brother.
As they took their final bow, and left the stage, we felt like we now knew the people behind the characters, the songs written behind the scenes and the stories behind the songs we know so well.
Thank you guys for a truly special evening. I truly can’t wait for your fifth season, and hopefully a return journey to Dublin.