I have a few highlights of C2C Festival and its subsequent ‘Introduces’ shows, but one that I did not expect was the sheer brilliance of Charlie Worsham. I was a fan of his album prior to the festival and I was looking forward to seeing him play, but from the CMA Songwriters Series to the C2C press room to his support slot for Frankie Ballard last night, I was amazed and entertained every step of the way. This guy is seriously talented in terms of sheer musicianship, but he’s also a very good songwriter, a capable vocalist, and the nicest, most humble guy and passionate music fan you will ever meet.
The fact that the venue was nearly full by the time he took the stage for his opening slot at Hoxton Square Bar & Square was evidence enough of that, and with every song played by request it was pretty clear that the fans were just as taken with him as I was. Some of the unreleased material had only been heard by most of the people there the previous week, yet they were singing along like they’d been listening on repeat for months. Charlie showed up with just an acoustic guitar and proceeded to play a selection of tracks from his debut album ‘Rubberband’, in addition to the aforementioned unreleased gems from his highly-anticipated second record, and a Dolly Parton cover he had promised he would play the week before. He chose ‘Coat of Many Colors’, citing it as his favourite, which was something I really appreciated being a Dolly superfan myself and preferring her rootsier material to the big glitzy numbers. He also met with fans (including myself) afterwards, and was sweet and humble to everyone (he even spelt my name right when he signed my ticket – A+ work). I will be the first in line to multiple shows on his next tour.
After a short break, Frankie Ballard took to the stage. Aside from a short, rocking set at one of the C2C after-parties, I hadn’t managed to catch him on his visit yet, so I was excited to see how his albums (and upcoming record) would translate into his live performance. In a live setting, Frankie’s voice is actually not that powerful, being fairly high and thin, but he compensates for that by filling his presence with swagger and really commanding the stage. There is a difference between a performer and an entertainer, and Frankie certainly entertained for the nearly 90-minute set – in which he played so close to curfew that he never gave an encore. Most of the offerings came from his 2014 album ‘Sunshine & Whiskey’, including the title track, ‘Young and Crazy’ (which he appropriately opened with), ‘Helluva Life’, ‘I’m Thinking Country’, ‘Drinky Drink’ and ‘Tell Me You Get Lonely’.
There was also some new material, most notably his current lead single ‘It All Started With A Beer’ (one of my favourites of the night as it was the only real ‘ballad’ and it’s a really lovely song), and ‘Cigarette’, a song Kip Moore had been playing out live for a while and which almost made the cut for his album. It’s a rocking, catchy song and I think it would do well as a single on country radio, so since Frankie’s album is due very soon I think it’s a given that this will be on it and probably released to radio further down the line. Frankie also performed a very cool and attitude-driven cover of Johnny Cash’s ‘A Boy Named Sue’, plus a handful of classic rock songs, including Bob Seger’s ‘Old Time Rock and Roll’.
With his hair slicked back and donning a leather jacket, Frankie strutted around the stage with the swagger of a rock ‘n’ roll musician in his prime. He smiled and laughed and charmed the audience, revving them up whether with his coolly-delivered stage patter or with his surprisingly impressive guitar skills. He really knows how to work a room, and it’s clear he’s very experienced in a live setting, learning what works for him and how to overcome the fact that his voice isn’t going to dominate the show. I was a little disappointed that he didn’t play more ballads or spread his covers out more instead of playing most of them at the end (I would have thought he’d have ended on ‘Helluva Life’ but maybe that’s just me), but altogether it was a really great show and the crowd absolutely loved it. I will definitely be back to see him, and thought it was really good of him to reassure us that he’s not one of those artists who visits once, promises they’ll come back and never returns. It’s clear both Frankie and Charlie had the time of their lives over here, and I’m really looking forward to seeing them again.