Review: Nashville in Concert @ The Bridgewater Hall

Hit ABC series ‘Nashville’ has amassed millions of fans worldwide since it first aired in America in 2012, documenting the lives of fictional musicians in the Tennessee city.

So country music fans in the UK understandably went into meltdown when it was announced that some of the cast would be touring the UK for the first time ever this month.

On Monday evening, hundreds upon hundreds of adoring fans gathered excitedly at the Bridgewater Hall to see Charles Esten, Clare Bowen, Sam Palladio and Chris Carmack on the first night of their tour.

They play guitar legend and heartthrob Deacon Claybourne, bandmates Scarlett O’Connor and Gunnar Scott, and upcoming gay singer-songwriter Will Lexington.

The sense of anticipation at the venue was palpable, with hundreds of people tweeting to share their excitement throughout the day – and some even turning up wearing cowboy hats.

So it was to my surprise that I found myself seated next to a middle-aged couple who’d never even heard of the show and had only shown up after winning VIP tickets.

They had no idea who any of the characters were, nor what to expect – besides hoping it wasn’t going to be ‘a night of Dolly Parton songs’.

Their VIP tickets meant they were able to meet the cast after the show and they were so indifferent that they offered me the chance instead.

Restraining my inner fan-girl, I reassured them they were in for a great evening and they’d have definitely changed their minds come 10pm.

The four cast members took turns to perform songs from the TV series as well as original material, with most songs ending to deafening applause and cheering.

Classics from the series Fade Into You, What If I Was Willing and I Know How to Love You sounded better than ever performed live.

The supporting musicians were hugely talented in their own right, playing everything from lap-steel guitars to accordions and mouth organs.

But it was the actors opening up about their own lives that made the evening so special and intimate.

Sam Palladio, originally from Cornwall, shared a tale of his granddad’s wartime sweetheart in Nashville, before performing Wake Me Up In Nashville, a song about their love that never was.

Clare Bowen talked openly about her little brother’s chemotherapy battle and went on to sing Love Steps In – receiving a teary and much-deserved standing ovation.

She also gave an insight into her childhood, including a sweet motto from her mum that she wanted to pass on

“Don’t let anybody throw dust on your sparkle,” she said.

As the show features a gay artist who’s denied airtime on the radio after coming out, it wasn’t surprising that the cast wanted to pay tribute to the Orlando victims.

Before their encore A Life That’s Good (originally sung by Deacon and his on-screen daughter Maddie) the four held hands while Charles Esten offered prayers and solidarity to the gay community and all those affected.

The audience stood and joined in as they sang their final song, and such is the love for the show and its cast, the final applause went on for what felt like ten minutes.

And, just as I predicted, the couple next to me rushed off to the VIP area, eager to meet four such brilliant performers.

Image courtesy of Grand Ole Opry, via YouTube, with thanks.

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