Frankie Ballard and Charlie Worsham
By Claire Weston
2 of my favourite artists – Frankie Ballard and Charlie Worsham – played the final night of their C2C Introduces UK tour at a 300 capacity venue in my home city of London last Thursday. To say I was excited for this show is a bit of an understatement.
I first gave Charlie Worsham’s music a listen to after seeing a recommendation from Charles Kelley of Lady Antebellum back in 2013 when Rubberband was first released and fell in love with his sound. With just an acoustic guitar, he started his set with ‘Wired That Way’ and ‘Someone Like Me’ followed by ‘Old Times Sake’. To give you an idea of the reception he has had during his visit to the UK – all of the songs on the setlist for this show had been chosen by fans through his social media pages, and 4 out of the 8 songs played haven’t been released by Charlie yet.
It’s very rare to see a room captivated by the support act but Charlie did just that. The audience listened intently as he played, occasionally singing back the lyrics, much to his surprise. He had promised at the CMA Songwriters evening a week before to cover a Dolly Parton song, and delivered a fantastic rendition of ‘Coat of Many Colours’. Back in November, Charlie was set to head out on a UK tour but had to cancel fairly last minute. He took the time to send out some handwritten apologies to a number of UK fans, myself included. It was a refreshing approach in the way it was handled and in fact, made me an even bigger fan.
Two of my favourite tracks from the Rubberband album were up next – ‘Could It Be’ and ‘Young To See’, which were incredible to hear live.
The biggest response of the night was for penultimate song ‘Lawn Chair Don’t Care’, a song that has become a fan favourite over here, with a catchy tune will get in your head until you find yourself singing it over and over. Finishing with ‘Southern By The Grace Of God’, which was co-written with Shane McAnally, he ended his set with those phenomenal guitar riffs we’ve been treated to this entire visit. It’s hard to believe that it is just one person playing guitar when he delivers those chords. One of my favourite things about watching Charlie’s sets is that he is genuinely humble about his talent and has clearly been surprised at the UK audience’s reaction. After exiting the stage to a rapturous applause, he spent the interval time meeting fans, signing tickets and taking pictures.
I’ve been a Frankie Ballard fan for probably a little over a year but there’s something about so many of the songs on the ‘Sunshine And Whiskey’ album that i can really relate to. I’ve been lucky enough to see him play at ACM Party For A Cause and at Route 91 Festival in Las Vegas, and was really looking forward to a headline set. His band took to the stage first, and the ‘Young and Crazy’ intro echoed around the room before Frankie emerged to kick off the party. This first song really set the atmosphere for the night, and had the room was buzzing from the start. He quickly went into ‘Drinky Drink’ followed by new song ‘Cigarette’, set to be on his new album due out in May.
There’s something about his stage presence and the way he performs the songs that is enthralling to watch. By the time he got to ‘Sunshine And Whiskey’, complete with an actual shot of whiskey passed through the crowd from the bar at the back, he had charmed the crowd completely.
The intimate setting gave him a chance to interact with the audience on a more personal level. It was great to see him shine on the small Hoxton stage because I felt that his C2C appearances didn’t give him the opportunity to. A 6 song set at Brooklyn Bowl (the shortest of all 3 after parties) and a 2 song Yamaha Music Stage set after *that* Chris Stapleton set weren’t the best of slots for someone making their UK debut. Next up was a cover of Johnny Cash’s ‘A Boy Named Sue’, which was perfect considering the retro image and smooth rock ‘n’ roll persona Frankie has.
His latest single, ‘It All Started With A Beer’ was the only real ballad of the night, and allowed the energetic show to be slowed down for a couple of minutes. Written by Jaren Johnston of The Cadillac Three, at first glance it appears to be a typical country drinking song, but is actually a stunning love song. The highlight of my night was hearing 2 of my favourite songs – ‘I’m Thinking Country’ and ‘Helluva Life’ played back to back. A song about appreciating things in life, this was the first opportunity for a London crowd to hear ‘Helluva Life’ live and gave Frankie the opportunity to reflect on how much the song means to him. The set closed out with a mash-up of songs that lead to more dancing from the crowd and more infectious guitar riffs from the band. It’s hard to believe the same guy rocking the front of this stage had an operation on his shoulder just a few months ago, and had struggled to pick up a guitar for the weeks that followed. It could have easily rivalled a rock show, further bridging the gap between country and rock.
Charlie came back onto the stage to join Frankie for the final song of the night – a cover of Bob Seger’s Old Time Rock And Roll. Although they offer very different things in terms of music and style, Charlie on guitar and Frankie on vocals was the perfect ending to this night. With both artists promising to return, (and me being a tiny bit emotional at the prospect), they left the stage to an ecstatic applause. Two very passionate musicians, on a dream Thursday night line-up for me, turned into one of my favourite gigs ever. Whoever decided to put these two on a tour around the UK together, I cannot thank you enough!