Charlie Worsham at the Borderline, London

A version of this review appeared on Entertainment Focus on Friday 17 March 2017.

Confession time: I saw Charlie Worsham three times in one day at C2C this year (once at the Bluebird, once on the Radio 2 stage and - although I didn't expect this one - once during Hunter Hayes' set). He was definitely one of my highlights of the weekend and, with sophomore album 'Beginning of Things' due out in London, I couldn't resist snapping up a ticket to the second-to-last date of his mini-tour of the UK.


The Borderline has just undergone a major refurbishment so Charlie's show was the unofficial opening, and I have to say it looks pretty good. It's still small and intimate and definitely still a music venue, but much nicer inside; the wrap-around bar looks really cool, and the lighting in the corridor is mind-bendingly brilliant. A warning: you will get confused about where the way out is. The colourful cattle skulls on the wall strongly suggest they're going for a rock/Americana feel (something reflected in the listings on the website, which currently include Jarrod Dickenson, Andrew Combs and Mo Pitney).


Alex Francis was the opening act, taking to the stage with just a guitar and an amp. The mix of acoustic guitar and his slightly gravelly, bluesy voice worked really well together, especially on songs like 'Make Believe' and 'Somewhere In Your Memory', where he hit some serious notes! He also got the crowd singing and clapping along to his shouldn't-work-but-does cover of Aretha Franklin's '(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman'. I predict we'll be seeing a lot more of him in the future.


Then it was time for Charlie, who came on stage to a rapturous reception. It was obvious from the start that the audience were hanging on his every word and singing along throughout. That created a great vibe between him and the crowd and it was clear he was feeding off their energy. He was really warm and engaging throughout, telling stories about what he'd been up to in London and joking about the current situation in America which got everyone laughing.



That storytelling carried over into the songs, with Charlie's clever lyrics and quick delivery working well together without being overwhelming. In particular I loved the more humorous songs, such as 'Lawn Chair, 'The Naked Song' and the Beatles-esque 'Take Me Drunk I'm Home'; it's rare to find an artist who can pull that off, but he does it in spades. He also showed off his impressive guitar skills throughout, including a bluegrass section that got a thunderous round of applause!



The set list covered a real mix of songs from Charlie's debut LP 'Rubberband' and his new record, from uptempo songs like 'Young To See' and 'Cut Your Groove' to rockier moments on 'Rambling On', which he mashed up with Nirvana's 'Smells Like Teen Spirit'. Throughout the set Charlie's vocals were very strong, showcasing real power and emotion. However, I felt he particularly shone on the slower numbers such as 'For Old Times Sake' and 'How I Learned To Pray', the latter of which held the previously rowdy crowd absolutely spellbound. 'Call You Up' was another highlight; you could hear the rawness in his voice and it sounded spectacular played on just acoustic guitar, in comparison to the horns on the studio version.



For the encore Charlie played a version of Kenny Rogers' 'The Gambler' (which was my favourite of his three covers of the night), as well as his first US single 'Could It Be', the ballad 'Mississippi in July' and 'Rubberband'. Those four songs worked absolutely perfectly as a showcase for his talents as a musician and a storyteller as well as his impressive vocal range – almost like a version of the whole show in miniature.



Overall Charlie's performance was fantastic and I didn't want it to end. Although the stripped-down nature of his set suited the size of the Borderline perfectly, with songs and style like that it won't be long before he's packing out far bigger venues. Plus it's obvious that he loves playing in the UK (and the audience love him) – he promised to come back 'twice a year for the rest of my life' and told us it was 'a night I'll never forget'. Based on that performance, I don't think I will either.

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