After the buzz and activity of C2C Festival, it shows dedication that so many fans and industry peers ventured out to London’s Borderline on Monday night to see Maren Morris play her first headlining show in the UK. Ever since last year’s post-C2C Sam Hunt show at the same venue, the event has had something of a who-knows-who-you-could meet kind of reputation, and the night didn’t disappoint, with the likes of songwriters Kate York (multiple cuts on Nashville) and Heather Morgan (Beat of The Music) in attendance.
Still, the evening was all about music, and opening act The Shadowboxers kicked things off with some Atlanta-bred soul in the key of Justin Timberlake and Bruno Mars. They went down a storm and I have to say even though I don’t listen to much soul, they were clearly talented both vocally and in terms of their compositions, and their synchronised dance moves were just an added bonus.
Soon Maren took to the stage, although there was less fanfare than I expected due to the amount of people talking and networking, especially at the back of the room. The underground indie music venue is very small and there were at most 200 people there, so I did feel it was a bit disrespectful that so many didn’t pay attention to her arrival. The noise of the talking also made it hard to hear her at times from a bit further back, and that may have been a sound issue, but it still doesn’t excuse those who just came to hang out rather than appreciate Maren’s talent.
Regardless, Maren performed really well. It was just a few hours after her debut album ‘Hero’ had been announced to the world, (due June 3) and she opened her set with the record’s kick-off track ‘Sugar’. From there she began running through some of the songs she is already known for, from her self-titled debut EP, including spirited renditions of ‘Drunk Girls Don’t Cry’, ‘80’s Mercedes’ and ‘The Company You Keep’ (which for some unknown reason is not on the full album). “It’s been a crazy day,” she smiled, referencing her album announcement, and she briefly spoke about the decision to title the album ‘Hero’ before heading into the break-up song ‘I Wish I Was’, in which she admitted “I was not the hero.”
Since Maren has been working in the music industry since the age of eleven and has previously released three albums independently, it’s fair to say that there was something of a comeback feel to the show and to what we can expect from the record. On ‘Loose Change’, an empowering song she wrote with Maggie Chapman some years ago, she sung about how a “douchebag” was treating her poorly and that she deserved better. On ‘Last Turn Home’, a cut she had as a songwriter with Tim McGraw, her vocals soared on lyrics that describe that wonderful feeling of coming home to someone. ‘Second Wind’, a track that has made her new record, is perhaps her own personal anthem, finding energy and empowerment in her struggles as she catches her second wind.
Whether collaborating with her two band members or playing an electric guitar by herself on stage, Maren shone throughout the performance (her voice alone is incredible), and I was disappointed when it ended much earlier than I was anticipating. Bringing The Shadowboxers back to the stage for one last hurrah, everyone joined in a rousing performance of ‘My Church’, a song which has just shot into the top 10 on country radio in the US. This young artist can clearly command a stage as small and intimate as The Borderline and as huge and overwhelming as the O2 Arena (as she did when she performed on the Yamaha Music Stage on Saturday at C2C). What’s more, she came out afterwards to meet fans, take pictures, and sign merchandise, and I am a fan of anyone who takes the time to do that.
With all this buzz and actual talent to back it up, be prepared for Maren Morris to take over.