Canaan Smith at Bush Hall, London

Canaan Smith was one of the acts I was most excited to see at C2C this year, and his Saturday afternoon appearance on the Radio 2 Country stage didn't disappoint. I was keen to see what he could do with a longer set, so when my friend Pip very kindly offered me his spare ticket to Canaan's Back For More tour date in London this week I jumped at the chance!


Support came from Catherine McGrath, who I mentioned in my recent C2C pop-up stages highlights post. Her poppy, uptempo songs and sweet vocals have led to her being dubbed 'the Irish Taylor Swift' and I can definitely see where the comparison came from, especially on tracks like 'Cinderella', 'Just In Case' and 'Hell Would Have To Freeze Over'. I also liked the playfulness in her lyrics, such as the 'Fix You' reference in the Coldplay concert-themed 'Lights'. Overall, although her set was a little samey I thought she had a lot of potential and sounded great, and I'm interested to see what she does next.

After a short break it was time for the man himself. Canaan took to the stage around 9 PM and I have to say I was a little taken aback - I'd expected him to walk out with a full band as he had at C2C, but instead it was just him with a guitar and one other guitarist. That said, he got a great reception from the crowd and instantly launched us into party mode with his new track 'Sweet Spot'. The almost-rapping in the song's intro had proved divisive when I saw him at C2C, but it definitely helped to get the crowd warmed up, especially as he followed it up with 'Hole In A Bottle' and the laid-back 'Chaos' with its almost reggae feel.



That party tone was short-lived however, as the set took a more introspective turn from there on (although there were still songs like 'Summer And A Six Pack', 'Speed Of My Life' and the rockier 'Mercy' to add a little variety as well). I felt Canaan really shone on these slower numbers, with the  gravelly tone to his voice enhanced by the stripped-back approach. Tracks such as 'Love You Longer' and 'Stuck' really showcased how well he can sing and held the audience completely spellbound.

One particular standout moment for me was hearing Canaan talk about his elder brother, who sadly passed away in a car accident as a teenager. The title track of his debut album Bronco is dedicated to his brother and you could really hear the raw emotion in his voice when he sang it - it showed that he's far more than just a typical 'bro-country' style performer.



Overall I have to say that Canaan's show was really surprising - in a good way. Yes there were still party songs in there, but it was much more introspective than his C2C performance and all the better for it in my view. He also did a really great job of engaging the audience, peppering the set with London references and encouraging singalongs on 'Come Back To Virginia' and his final song, the runaway hit 'Love You Like That'. I always like to see a different side to artists and I think with this show and his appearances at C2C, Canaan Smith is destined for big things.

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