Charles Esten

Charles Esten, Shane McAnally, Lori McKenna, Ashley Monroe and Charlie Worsham Thursday March 10 2016, Indigo, O2, London

The songwriters evening has always been the sensible one in the wild, arm-waving world of C2C but it too is being reborn. It’s a funny old world when the sophisticated Lori McKenna is seen as the motherly, sensible one amidst a group of young bucks – although ‘Nashville’ (the TV show not the place) star Esten is actually several years older.

If Johnny Cash had been here he’d have scared the life out of them with his dark, craggy style. This is new new country, like a dream team for a pop group: leggy, blonde Monroe, stylish brunette McKenna, hunky Esten, dewy-eyed pin-up Worsham and hard-working country boy, McAnally. And while it might be individuals showing off their songs, both their own hits and those that they’ve written for others (the volume of which might surprise the casual), they’re brought together by Worsham. He’s the guitar hero of the crown, centre stage, offering backing to the others and always quick to stand when it’s his turn.

The songs keep on coming: McAnally with Fuzzy (Worsham on guitar), Worsham breaking the mould with a new one, For Old Times Sake, McKenna’s heartlands homage Buy This Town from her album

LORRAINE, Monroe’s The Truth, a number one for Jason Aldean…

They were having fun on stage, a bit like a school outing, pleased to be let out of the US into the playground of the wider world. There wasn’t necessarily witty repartee (Esten: ‘I’m Charles but you can call me Chip’ and Monroe talking about her rather dubious early hit, Weed Instead Of Roses, ‘I wrote this at 19 and I’m 29 now’) we got a charming spontaneity.

Highlights included Worsham’s Mississippi In July (with vocal backing by Monroe) and Esten’s cool rocking He Ain’t Me (with more Worsham guitar). This might have been a songwriters’ night but it was more of a lively get-together than a respectful audience at the Bluebird.

Though sorely disappointed at missing the charming Charles Esten and talented Thomas Rhett, my hopes were high for the first night’s performances. My Friday night at C2C 2016 began with the crowd in full swing and the room buzzing.

Charles Esten Photo Gallery

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