Walking into the 3 Arena to see the Country to Country performances of Kip Moore, Brantley Gilbert, Jason Aldean and Lady Antebellum, I felt mild disappointment at first. The arena was almost full to capacity. According to Google, that’s almost 23,000 people, so suddenly, my music taste no longer made me particularly unique. The general age of the audience suggested that young Irish people do in fact like country and western.
I wasn’t familiar with Kip Moore but kept an open mind as he went through numbers like “Something ‘bout a truck’, ‘Pretty Girl’ and ‘Dirt Road’. My ticket was for the standing area, which Moore himself reminded us was the ‘moshing area.’ Although the crowd never started moshing, they were receptive to the music. Moore’s energetic performance of ‘Dirt Road’, a coming of age song set in his hometown in Georgia, particularly engaged the crowd. Moore held the crowd with a strong, slightly gravelly voice and uncomplicated lyrics accompanied by upbeat arrangements. He went above and beyond by meeting with fans during the time between the two final artists, and his growing popularity was signified by the queue stretching around the arena.
Brantley Gilbert led a Country-Rock theme that would later be followed by Jason Aldean. Songs like ‘You don’t know her like I do’ and ‘One hell of an Amen’ demonstrated a compelling songwriting ability and contrasted strongly with the musical tone of ‘Read me my Rights’ and ‘Take it Outside.’ ‘Bottoms Up’ was the most popular Gilbert number but his consistent interaction with the audience meant good energy levels throughout. More than any other artist he brought his band into the performance by singing and acting out song lyrics with individual members. His best work doesn’t stray too far from his country roots.
Jason Aldean has been on the Country music scene ten years now but has never before performed in Ireland. He performed ‘My Kind of Party’, a song written by Brantley Gilbert, as well as the popular ‘Two Night Town’, and hits ‘Crazy Town’ and ‘Burnin’ it down’. Aldean has a good range and a distinctive Southern voice but the performance was lacking slower numbers to keep a country focus. Aldean knows how to create atmosphere and arrived on stage to sparklers which lit again for ‘Crazy Town.’ ‘Burnin’ it down’ finished to his microphone becoming engulfed in flames.
Lady Antebellum led a very enthusiastic crowd from beginning to end of their performance. They restored a country/pop vibe to the night and heard the audience sing song after song back to them, in particular ’Just a Kiss’ and ‘American Honey.’ Charles Kelley and Hillary Scott have no trouble keeping a crowd’s attention, and at one point Kelley even walked into the crowd, surrounding himself as he sang. Kelley overdid the idea of his ‘coming home to his roots’, with the result that Scott was at times left trying to keep the show moving, but it didn’t stop them connecting with their fans on a deeper level than their predecessors. Maybe the best moment of the night was when the arena lit up with glowing screens all over the room to the sound of ‘Fall for me.’ The quality of the lead singers’ voices and the arrangements of the band’s songs will bring me back to see them live as soon as possible.
By Sinéad Fitzgerald