After days two and three had been bigger and better than anybody could have expected, it was hard to imagine how day three could top it. Andrew Combs was around to get things going, introducing the rootsier, edgier sound of the evening. He was by far the most Americana act on the bill, with many wondering how he reached the main stage, but nonetheless he gave a good performance with a selection of material showcasing his great lyrics, a real country sound and some old school rock ‘n’ roll. For me he didn’t have as much on stage charisma as some of the superstar acts, but that’s to be expected, and playing to a fairly empty arena (as it unfortunately was at that stage) has got to have an impact.
First on the Yamaha Music Stage was Striking Matches, and as usual they won over scores of new fans with their incredible guitar skills, catchy material and stunning synchronisation. They are so electric, and three songs was not enough to fully appreciate them. I think the crowd agreed, because they got by far the biggest reaction any of the Yamaha acts got throughout the weekend.
I thought day three was going to be comparatively quieter than day two, but I had forgotten to account for Chris Stapleton. Quiet and unassuming, he took to the stage with his band and wife Morgane, and proceeded to stun the entire arena (15000 people) into silence. His voice was better live than I had anticipated, and his huge soaring notes, coupled with pitch perfect falsetto and understated gritty soul, completely floored everyone in attendance. Allowing the band to leave the stage for a couple of songs, Chris stood alone on stage with an acoustic guitar and played ‘Whiskey and You’. You could have heard a pin drop – everyone was just struck with awe. Afterwards the noise from the crowd was so loud; 15000 people applauded and cheered and stomped their feet for at least a minute while Chris awkwardly accepted the praise in his characteristically humble fashion.
Still, it wasn’t over. With the band back on stage Chris began introducing them to the crowd – by singing. He sung, in that incredible soulful voice, details about each band member, plus their name and where they’re from, eliciting a huge reaction from the crowd. My mind was blown by how good he was, and a couple of tweets I sent about it immediately flooded my feed with responses. Everyone felt the same. Then there was Chris and Morgane’s awesome performance of ‘You Are My Sunshine’, slowed right down and done in a way I had never heard before. When Chris left the stage after a set that was unbearably short, the audience continued to demand an encore for a minute or two before they eventually gave up and settled down (only the headliners are allowed encores to keep time).
I feel sorry for poor Frankie Ballard, who had to follow up probably the best performance of the entire weekend with an acoustic set on the Yamaha Music Stage. With his small, high-pitched voice, he trundled through three of his tracks, although I was honestly too distracted by what had just happened with Chris Stapleton to notice. It was a shame since Frankie is a good performer, and had he performed elsewhere on the bill I think he would have gone down better.
Kacey Musgraves picked up the gauntlet thrown by Chris and ran with it, keeping the crowd pretty entertained despite the slowness and outright countryness of some of her songs. I still think I prefer to see her in a club or a theatre as I think that’s where she’s best suited, but she did a good job in the arena by straight-talking to the audience, playing a mix of songs from her albums, and including a couple of covers (‘A Spoonful of Sugar’ from Mary Poppins and ‘These Boots Are Made For Walkin’’ by Nancy Sinatra). I should say, no matter how much I love Kacey, that the campy glitz is wearing a little thin, so I hope she starts to change it up over the next few months.
By far the rockiest act of the weekend, Eric Church arrived on the main stage to close London’s festival with a bang. Focusing on his newer material from ‘Mr. Misunderstood’ with healthy doses of songs from ‘The Outsiders’ and ‘Chief’, he didn’t forget some of his well-loved classics from earlier records but they were admittedly kept to a minimum. He didn’t speak to the audience a whole lot (although that was true of most of the acts), but he did stop to explain that he “picked up a German cold” earlier in his European tour, and so he would need as much help as he could get. Surprisingly he sounded really good throughout the set, although a couple of times I did notice him holding back on notes, being conservative with his performance. His band were really-well rehearsed and his backing vocalist was a truly badass lady with a huge voice. Sadly a lot of people left before Eric and continued to leave throughout his set, something I suspect was attributed to his polarising sound and not the quality of the individual performance, which was great as always. I think I’ll always prefer to see him in a small club rather than a huge arena, but it was still great and as usual I loved the rousing version of ‘Springsteen’ to close.
It’s hard to imagine how C2C 2017 could get any bigger. It truly was an amazing weekend, one that is hard to put into words even for me. I loved every minute of it and am already excited for next year, even if there’s no way they can top 2016’s line-up.