Thomas Rhett at O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire

A version of this review appeared previously on Entertainment Focus on Sunday 13th November 2016.

Regular readers will remember that Thomas Rhett was one of my biggest surprises at C2C: Country to Country this year, so when he announced a European tour I snapped up tickets as fast as I could! Since then he's won a CMA Award (Single of the Year for 'Die A Happy Man') and released a deluxe version of his album Tangled Up, so anticipation was high when the tour rolled into London on Saturday. I'm pleased to say it did not disappoint.

The show was a family affair, with Thomas' dad Rhett Akins as the support act. Although he had a brief career as a country artist in the 90s (showcased in his opening song, 'That Ain't My Truck'), in recent years Akins has made a name for himself as a Nashville songwriter. He took the crowd on a whistle-stop tour of hits he'd written including Luke Bryan's 'Huntin', Fishin' and Lovin' Every Day', Frankie Ballard's 'Young and Crazy' and Blake Shelton's 'Boys Round Here', and I was amazed how many songs he's written that I love! He managed to keep the energy levels up with just vocals and a guitar and I was seriously impressed by his combination of singalong melodies and well-crafted lyrics. Plus he was a great storyteller and kept us all laughing with his stories about visiting the UK and hunting out punk records in Georgia in the 70s.

Then it was time for Thomas. He kicked off his set with party song Anthem, which was the perfect start to get the crowd singing and dancing along. That set the tone for the first 'funky' section of the set, with the high energy maintained through Make Me Wanna and a shouldn't-work-but-does mash-up of Tangled with DNCE's Cake By The Ocean.

At this point the set was almost identical to his C2C performance and I was slightly concerned it would be more of the same. However, once Rhett moved into current single Star Of The Show, I knew I needn't have worried. The song worked really well as a transition between the more uptempo songs and the ballads and conveyed a great sense of emotion, particularly in the stripped-back acoustic ending. This pattern of upbeat songs and more laid-back tracks was repeated throughout the show and I liked that these 'waves' gave it a nice balance.

My personal highlight was Rhett's performance of The Day You Stop Lookin' Back, which showed off his incredible vocals as well as his range. It's one of my favourite songs on his Tangled Up album and I'm really glad he got to showcase it in front of an audience, as it deserves to be heard far more widely.

One of my favourite parts of the show was Rhett's opportunities to show other aspects of his personality that aren't just 'party guy'. He chatted and joked with the audience, even pulling a fan up on stage to sing along on a cover of Garth Brooks' 'Friends In Low Places' (despite the guy not knowing the words!*) and it was lovely to see him so relaxed and at ease. He also got to show off his impressive dance moves on an Uptown Funk cover and his songwriting chops on an acoustic section, including a version of Florida Georgia Line's Round Here (which he originally wrote) and giving a slight Beatles-esque vibe to One Direction's Whole Lotta History. It was a great display of his showmanship and charisma and demonstrates that, as an entertainer, he can compete with the best of them.

* To be fair, I didn't know the words either. I think this means I get my country fan card revoked...

If I had one criticism, it would be that there were perhaps one too many covers and I would have liked a bit more of Rhett's original material (particularly South Side and Something To Do With My Hands). But overall this was a great introduction for new fans as well as a chance to see a different side of him. I'm just sad it was over too soon!

1 comment:

  1. I've never actually heard of Thomas Rhett but I love gigs and this one sounds awesome!

    Sarah xxx