After the buzz of seeing Miranda Lambert for the first time on Friday, Saturday offered a country pop explosion in the form of Maddie & Tae, Sam Hunt, Little Big Town and Carrie Underwood, with High Valley and Maren Morris on the Yamaha Music Stage in between. Maddie & Tae kicked things off with a spirited rendition of ‘Right Here, Right Now’, which was later joined by their three singles to date, plus a couple of other album tracks and a cover of Loretta Lynn’s ‘You Ain’t Woman Enough (To Take My Man)’. I was truly impressed by that cover and by their performing skills in general – they have learned a lot in a short space of time and were incredibly polished, engaging, enthusiastic and crowd-pleasing. I’m really looking forward to seeing them again.
Next up was High Valley, and while musically they are clearly talented, adding a twangier sound to the evening, I just can’t get excited about them. I find them boring and uneventful, and I’m not sure why. They just don’t grab me. Sam Hunt, like Thomas Rhett the previous day, was there to divide the audience, and divide he did. Lots of people seemed unsure about his R&B and rap stylings, although I have to say that from an objective perspective he did a good job of entertaining those who did enjoy the music. The oddest part of the performance was when Miley Cyrus’ ‘We Can’t Stop’ began playing over the loudspeakers, lasting until after the first chorus, while Sam spoke to the audience briefly. Then, instead of covering the song himself, he went straight into one of his own songs, and Miley was never referenced again. Very strange.
Maren Morris graced the Yamaha Music Stage to showcase her brand of southern soul-pop, and she seemed to go down well, although I was disappointed when she became the only one of the six acts there to play two songs instead of three. I’m not sure why that was, since there was plenty of time for her to fill, and she was certainly more familiar to the crowd than High Valley, for example. Oddly, lots of the crowd left after Sam and Maren, bizarre given how popular Little Big Town and Carrie Underwood are.
Little Big Town, it’s safe to say, put on an amazing performance and the audience loved it. They always seem to get better, knowing just how to guide fans through a journey of up-tempo fun songs, darker material, and slow ballads. ‘Girl Crush’ was of course a special highlight, with much of the assembled crowd joining in a sing-a-long, although the same could be said for their closer ‘Boondocks’. Karen is an amazing vocalist but the quartet’s harmonies are just stellar, and in fact all of them capably took on lead throughout the set. I also loved that their harmonies were louder and clearer than I’m used to hearing them on record, meaning that the different notes being sung were far more discernible and added new touches to the songs. They are a great, dynamic live act and well worth seeing.
It’s hard to pick out the best performers at this year’s C2C because everyone was of such a high calibre, but Carrie Underwood is definitely up there. I saw her at C2C in 2013, but even though she was good then she seems to have come along in leaps and bounds since. Not only were her vocals actually better than three years ago, she seemed to put a lot more into the performance and knew how to interact with the crowd better. She sped through hit after hit after hit, belting them out with gusto and seeming to really enjoy herself as she strutted around the stage. Bringing out Sam Hunt for ‘Heartbeat’ was a no brainer and it went down really well, although not nearly as well as ending her encore on ‘Something In The Water’ did. Even for those who are non-religious it was a special moment, and many were still buzzing the following day after such an electric performance.