Birmingham, London & London & Harvestfest, Enniskillen, Northern Ireland Aug 2017
I have been a fan of Miranda Lambert since my mother decided she wanted to go to Nashville for the CMA Country Music Awards in 2010. At the time, I liked Country music, but it just didn’t sound right to me here in the UK, but I was pretty certain it would sound perfect in Nashville! In readiness for the Award Ceremony I started to listen to some of the acts nominated – Lady Antebellum, Little Big Town, Brad Paisley, Sugarland amongst others and of course Miranda! Miranda was the 1 who stuck in my head the most & before we even went I was loving her! (Point of interest, although completely off topic, Zac Brown Band won New Artist of the Year that year!) Of the record setting 9 awards Miranda was nominated for she won 4, although she was nominated twice in 1 category (Video of the Year). In addition White Liar was the song of the holiday, it was being played everywhere!
Miranda performed a couple of times that night, including a performance with Sheryl Crow singing Coal Miners Daughter as a tribute to Loretta Lynn, who joined them on stage half way through. Couldn’t believe it when my mother asked who Loretta was!! Bless her!!
This was obviously before the 1st Country 2 Country was held in London. After the 1st C2C in 2013 it became an annual event and I started hoping, wishing and praying for Miranda to come over. Finally in 2016 she came! It was actually her 1st ever performance outside of America or Canada! I was sooooo excited, even more so when her good buddy and fellow Pistol Annies band member Ashley Monroe was also announced as an artist performing and on the same night as Miranda.
Ashley played the Songwriters on Thursday, the night before she & Miranda were performing. Also playing that night was Scott McAnally, a songwriter who has written for, and with, Miranda many times. My excitement levels went into complete melt down when Ashley welcomed Miranda on stage and they sang a duet! I had much better seats for the Songwriters than I had for C2C, so I was seeing my idol in a much smaller venue that the O2 Arena and a lot closer!
The following night Miranda was the headline act and I have to say I was bitterly disappointed! There was little interaction with the audience and she played her guitar for most of the time. This wasn’t the sassy lady I had seen & fallen in love with in Nashville! She finally put her guitar down & strutted her stuff for about the last 15 minutes! Everybody else I spoke to all thought she was wonderful, but to me it seemed as if her divorce from Blake Shelton had somehow or another stripped her of her confidence! She did gain a lot more fans that night though, so it was obviously just me that felt this way.
When in November last year she announced she was going to do a string of dates in the UK, I was desperate to do a road trip & go to them all. My long suffering non country music lover partner objected though & the compromise was that I could go to the 1st date in Birmingham and the last date in London. I then managed (under the disguise of my Christmas present) to sneak in Harvestfest in Enniskillen! So I was going to see her 3 times in 8 days! That would do me!!
Friday 18th August, I arranged to meet some friends at Birmingham New Street train station, as I was staying in the same hotel as them. My partner pointed out that the train station was HUGE & I was likely to have trouble finding them. I got off the train & immediately saw his point, there were 2 ticket barriers at each end of the platform, just to get into the station! I could see a John Lewis, so I decided to head for that & then phone my friends. As I was heading there though I saw them walking towards me!! They were just discussing how they were going to find me. David saw me before Denise did & said problem solved, there she is!! Phew!!
We checked in & realised I was on a different floor from my friends. Denise went back to the reception & not only got me moved to the same floor as them, but upgraded so I had use of the Club Lounge as well!! Apparently she had rung the hotel before we got there to ask that our rooms and that of another couple who were joining were all on the same floor!
It was then a quick shower & out. I had arranged to meet some other friends in the Smoke Haus, for dinner. Map in hand off I went, it was only a 10 minute walk away. 20 minutes later I still had no idea where I was!! In the end 1 of the friends I was meeting rang me & directed me. When I got there I saw the way I should have come! The entrance is a little bit tucked away so I think I could be forgiven! After dinner I had to high tail it back to the hotel for the Club Lounge, who is going to say no to 2 hours free drinks??
While we were in the lounge we got talking to a gentleman sat beside us, turns out he was from Carolina in the US and was a Country music fan! He didn’t realise Miranda was in town that night. 1 of the friends I had had dinner with had mentioned he had a spare ticket, a few phone calls later & Dave’s plans for the evening had radically changed!! He said he wasn’t on Facebook, I said that was a shame as all of us there had only met through Facebook & the guy he got the ticket from also we only knew through Facebook (actually I had only met him for the 1st time at dinner!!).
The venue was a lot smaller than I was expecting and we had seats much closer to the front than I was anticipating, so I was a happy bunny!!
Ward Thomas were sounding great. Last time I had seen them was at the O2 Shepherds Bush when they were headlining and they were really good, gave a very polished performance. Obviously this time they were the support act, so they only sang 6 songs in total, including everyone’s favourite Ward Thomas song, Town Called Ugley! Catherine did say that couldn’t believe they were opening for Miranda Lambert & they were absolutely thrilled. She then said they were joining us to watch the show. My friends & I got quite excited as the 6 seats in front of us were empty, we were hoping that was where they were going to sit! They didn’t though & the seats remained empty all evening!
I spent most of the interval saying hello to more people I have met through Facebook! I would say at this point too, the pink sunglasses were out in force!
Finally, the lights went down. The place was absolutely buzzing, there was a really high level of expectation. The band walked on & then Miranda walked on. As you can imagine, the place erupted as the crowd went nuts! Miranda seemed a bit taken aback, but quickly settled in with Fastest Girl in Town. She played several numbers without talking in between, but in fairness, she has a HUGE back catalogue, Weight of These Wings is a double CD in it’s own right, without taking into account all the other albums and hits she has had!
At one stage she did mention her divorce & kinda took a bow. I wasn’t really sure what our reaction to that should be, should we cheer or boo? Fortunately (very fortunately indeed it could be!!) most of the audience cheered!
The performance Miranda gave was the performance I was expecting at C2C. I had tried not to build my hopes up this time, I prepared myself for a similar performance, so when she put her guitar down after Highway Vagabond & started strutting up & down the stage I nearly cheered myself hoarse. Her performance was amazing!
Photo credit Denise Parcell
When she sang Pink Sunglasses, she and Gwen Sebastian (a singer songwriter in her own right) who was her backing vocals for the tour, both donned pink sunglasses and Gwen came forward to front stage with Miranda & the pair of them belted it out. When they finished they both threw their glasses into the audience!
Towards the end Miranda introduced her band, she started with the guy on the left of the stage as you were looking at it. She had quite a few band members on stage with her. She went along the line in order, except she missed her steel guitar player out, he was in the middle of the band but she skipped him. She came back to him last, with each member she had been saying their name and where they were from, so far they had all been Americans. She introduced her steel guitar player and said he was from ….. Essex England! He got a huge cheer, the loudest cheer of the night so far!
Miranda introduced Gwen, calling her her best buddy. She left the stage and Gwen sang one of her own songs, Cadillac. WOW Gwen has a powerful voice. She seemed right at home on the stage as well, if she was nervous taking centre point she sure didn’t show it!
Photo credit Denise Parcell
The final 4 songs, Automatic, Little Red Wagon, White Liar & Gunpowder & Lead took it up even further & the crowd were singing so loudly it almost drowned Miranda out. At 1 stage, she pointed her microphone forward & the crowd took over, not just singing 1 line, but 3 or 4! Miranda just could not believe it, we saw her turn to the band & say wow!! By now she was getting quite tearful, I am not sure she was expecting the response she was getting, but the crowd were loving her and absolutely lapping it all up!
After Gunpowder & Lead everyone left the stage. The crowd were positively howling for more. Miranda walked back on on her own with her guitar & sang Tin Man, just her & her guitar! That sure shut the crowd up, the place went really, really quiet as everyone stood & listened. A few people started to sing along, but then realised it sounded much better just her.
The final song was a bit of a shock, she brought her stage manager on to the stage & they sang U2’s Still Haven’t Found What I‘m Looking For. I have to admit, I stood & bawled my eyes out! No idea why, I have seen U2 a few times & don’t ever remember crying at their concert, so no idea why it affected me like that. I was in good company though because by now Miranda was having trouble holding it together as she too was crying!
Photo credit Denise Parcell
I left the gig feeling fully vindicated in being disappointed at C2C. The performance tonight was the performance I was expecting last year. I was so glad I was going to see her again and that wasn’t the only performance I would watch.
Our evening was not over yet though. We decided to go for another drink & chose the closest pub to the venue (so as not to waste any precious drinking time!!) We were sat chatting when 1 of the guys we were with said “Oh, Miranda has just walked passed!” Helen, Denise & I were out of our seats, out of the pub & after her quicker than Usain Bolt off of the starting block!! We legged it after her & called out to her. Bless her she stopped & gave us each a hug. Of course I had to go 1 further & gave her a peck on the cheek! I also hugged Gwen. We were allowed to do this, but we were told no photographs. I didn’t care, I had kissed Miranda Lambert!!
I apologise for my details being a bit sketchy, but I wasn’t intending on reviewing as I was drinking and Sober Helen has a problem reading Drunk Helen’s notes! As the events of the week unfolded though I decided I would review, but a combination of the 3 times that I am seeing Miranda.
The night after Miranda played Birmingham, she played Manchester. People who had been to both gigs said the Manchester performance was better than Birmingham. I was surprised at this, but as I hadn’t gone I couldn’t comment.
Then came the fateful Monday in Glasgow! I think we all know what happened that evening. For some reason Miranda cut the show short by 1 song, ending on White Liar & she did not come back to perform Tin Man. I wasn’t there so I am not going to comment, apart from to say without any statement from Miranda rumours, suppositions and theories abound and a lot of people were disappointed & felt very let down.
2 days after Glasgow, the London crowd were in full swing with the gossip mill. People took to Facebook saying “Let’s make sure Miranda knows we love her”, “Let’s make sure her final show of her UK tour is the best” etc. I have to admit I was surprised on the train up there to find I had butterflies in my tummy! 1st time I have gone to a gig & been nervous!
Not wanting to miss the start of Ward Thomas again, I was in my seat half an hour before the girls came on!! This time I was with a friend from home who I used to go to nearly all my gigs and festivals with, back in the days when I liked ‘mainstream’ music. Although Beth does like Country music, as most of my gigs are now in London and midweek, it is difficult for her to travel to London when she works full time & has a toddler. It just so happened that she had this week off though & I had a spare ticket. We were row D for tonight’s show, so I was even more excited, I have never been this close to the front at a seated gig before!
Ward Thomas again put on a great performance, if anything Lizzie was up & down the stage even more tonight than Friday. Catherine said they were still pinching themselves that they were supporting Miranda & that they were sad tonight was their last time. They sang an extra song in their set this time, a song called Breath In. It was just Catherine & Lizzie singing and the keyboard player accompanying them, don’t know about Breath In, it left me breathless! The crowd went silent & listened to them! I have reviewed this part of the show in my joint review with Caroline, so I don’t want to repeat myself (or bore you if you have already read it!)
In the interval I saw once again the pink sunglasses were out in force! Beth was relieved; she had thought I was joking when I told her she had to wear pink sunglasses to the gig!!
The lights went down and the atmosphere was at fever pitch! Once again the band walked on & then Miranda walked on. The place went absolutely crazy, way louder than Birmingham! The familiar opening notes of Fastest Girl in Town started & we were off. Have to say, the sound was off at the beginning with it being difficult to actually hear the lyrics, but as we all knew the words it didn’t matter too much!
The sound was better for Kerosene was which next, followed by Heart Like Mine, which Miranda introduced as her drinking song! I thought that an odd choice of drinking song, I would have thought she has plenty of other songs which would be better contender for drinking songs!
For Highway Vagabond Miranda put her guitar down & started her sassiness, positively strutting up & down the stage! We Should Be Friends, Vice and Baggage Claim followed. Again, Miranda wasn’t doing an awful lot of talking between numbers, just doing what she does best, performing! It was also obvious she was enjoying herself. Initially she had a drink in a pink cup (by the way, I forgot to say, her mike stand has a cup holder on it that has a sparkly letter M on it!)
After Over You, she thanked us all for coming out & for supporting not just her but Country music in general. That got a pretty loud cheer! During All Kinds of Kinds Miranda was walking down the front of the stage & shaking people’s hands, more people started to come down to the front & you could see security getting twitchy!!
During The House That Built Me, I could feel tears forming again! What is it with Miranda keep making me cry? I didn’t cry to this at Birmingham, why now?
Once again for Pink Sunglasses Gwen came forward and shared centre stage with Miranda & it was then I noticed Gwen’s tee shirt, it had Amy Winehouse on it. I pointed it out to Beth, we saw Amy a couple of times so it was strange to be at a Country music gig & have Amy looking at us!
During Ugly Lights, Gwen and the bass guitarist were busy two stepping at the back of the stage. Sitting this close to the front you see so much more – like Amy Winehouse tee shirts and also the fact that the bass guitarist could have been Charlie Worsham’s brother, he really looks like him! All through the show you could see Gwen was enjoying herself and having fun.
Miranda had now ditched her pink cup & had a see through plastic glass which she told us had whiskey & coke in it, she said she shouldn’t really, but she felt like partying!! Quite a few drinks were raised in the air in response to that!
Ugly Lights went straight into Mama’s Broken Heart, without any pause at all and was sung with real force!
The band were introduced, in a similar fashion to Birmingham, with the steel guitarist being left to last. When it was his turn, Miranda said he was from Essex, England the crowd went completely wild! The cheer he got was the longest cheer of the night, it was about 45 seconds long! Wonder what that was about?? Miranda laughed & then introduced herself, saying she came from Texas. Her cheer wasn’t as loud or as long!!
Miranda introduced Gwen, again calling her her best buddy and left the stage to Gwen for her to sing Cadillac.
There was then a difference to tonight’s show. Miranda said she had a special guest with her tonight and introduced her boyfriend Anderson East! Anderson came on to the stage guitar in hand. Miranda said she had been feeling a bit low (!!!!!!!!!!) so Anderson had surprised her & flown across the pond to be with her! Together they sang the song on Weight of These Wings which they co-wrote – Get Away Driver, with Anderson taking lead vocal, while Miranda sang back up. As it is written from the male perspective, it did actually sound better with Anderson singing it rather than Miranda as in on the album. The crowd fell silent & again just listened. Beth didn’t catch who was on stage, so I told her & started to explain who Anderson was, but I didn’t need to, she knows of him & really likes him. She didn’t know they were an item & she was over the moon to see him. I didn’t like to tell her he had been in London performing a little while back!! Oops!!
As Anderson left the stage he gave Miranda a big old smackeroo on the lips and affectionately patted her on the bottom! So sweet!!
A cover of Rodney Crowell – I Ain’t Living Long Like This was next and again Automatic, Little Red Wagon and White Liar followed. The crowd then held their breath & went into an almighty cheer when the opening notes of Gunpowder & Lead were played. Miranda had wiped her eyes several times by now & it was obvious she was again really moved by the reaction of the audience! She also seemed to be coughing!
Miranda & the band left the stage. Is it possible to cheer & yell for more whilst holding your breath? Because I think that is what practically every person in the Apollo was doing! Was she going to come back on? The roof was lifted off when she walked back on with her guitar & again, she had tears in her eyes! Tin Man was even more beautiful and once more the crowd fell silent & listened. Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking for was the final number, with the manager coming on again. Miranda didn’t sing much this time & it looked as if she was struggling with a cough!
So my 3rd & final time of seeing Miranda this time around was at the inaugural Harvestfest in Enniskillen, N Ireland. This was different for several reasons, 1 it was outside (thankfully it didn’t rain!) 2 we were all standing & 3 there were screens at the sides of the show. As there weren’t very many people we managed to wiggle down right near to the front, initially there were 4 people standing in front of me, but I managed to wiggle further in & ended up with just 1 person in front of me (there are advantages to being short!!)
Miranda was late coming on, but that was because Charley Pride had been late coming on, which obviously threw Miranda back. Before the band came on, the screens burst into life and a recording of Sister Rosetta Tharpe singing Up Above My Head was played, it then went quiet and the opening notes of Fastest Girl in Town rang out & on came Miranda. Immediately I could see that Gwen was playing a more prominent part, almost sharing the vocals. Miranda had cancelled a session with Bob Harris on Thursday, stating that she had a bad throat & the Dr had ordered her to rest her voice. Seeing Gwen take a more prominent position was concerning, obviously Miranda was still hurting!
Indeed, after the track, Miranda said she had woken up that morning and had no voice at all, she couldn’t even speak! She said she was going to do her best, but we were going to have to help her!
During Kerosene Miranda was sipping often from her pink cup. She thanked us for coming out and said that she was going to give it everything she had & could we show her some love. I wondered if we were going to get the full set, it was so obvious that she was struggling!
During Heart Like Mine Miranda pointed to Gwen a couple of times & Gwen took over the lead vocals. After Highway Vagabond Miranda said dam it I am not leaving until I have given you the show you came to see, we have come a long way, a very long way to perform for you & you deserve the best, you know, We Should Be Friends!! The crowd really were behind Miranda and we were all singing our hearts out, although it sounded louder at the other side of the stage that our side!
Gwen was introduced and Miranda said she was relying very heavily on her tonight and she was so glad to have her & she hoped we didn’t mind. From the roar of the crowd I would say, no, we didn’t mind! Gwen started Vice and they almost sang it as a tag team. It was really apparent how well these 2 know each other & what great friends they really are. Gwen was completely tuned into Miranda, she didn’t appear to be watching her like a hawk, she was dancing as normal, but Miranda would just point to her & she would immediately take over lead vocals without even a heartbeat of hesitation & several times Miranda had her back to Gwen when she pointed!
During Over You Miranda was really struggling, so she pointed the microphone forward & allowed the audience to take over singing. Whilst we were singing Miranda kept mouthing (or saying I don’t know!) THANK YOU!
Miranda said that this was the 1st time they had toured in Europe, she thanked us for loving Country music saying It takes All Kind of Kinds! I was quite liking the extra talking & the way she was introducing the songs as part of her conversation! During this track Miranda signalled for the crowd to wave our arms in the air She also signalled for Gwen to come further forward & she just hugged her as they waved!
Photo Credit Kate Willis
House That Built Me Miranda said she was really nervous about singing it, she said it is 1 of the most special songs she has written & she really didn’t want to mess it up. She didn’t, it didn’t sound as good as it had in London or Birmingham, but it still sounded pretty great. The crowd helped a lot & again Gwen took over a couple of times. When the track finished Miranda stamped her foot & swore, the Irish equivalent is ‘feck’ I do believe! Once again Miranda was in tears, but you could see these were tears of frustration. Made me think, we can call in sick to work, but stars like Miranda can’t do that, the show MUST go on!
After Pink Sunglasses only Gwen threw hers into the audience, Miranda was at the back of the stage drinking something. During Mama’s Broken Heart, Miranda was still strutting up & down the stage, she was really fighting through this bad throat!
Miranda said she wanted to introduce us to her family, she said you may not know where they come from, but show them some love. The steel guitar player wasn’t left until last this time, he was introduced in turn!
Gwen sang Cadillac, but when she finished rather than going back to her place, she said “This is Miranda Lambert, I love her very much, we all love her very much! There was no way she was not going to come out and sing for you!” Miranda wiped her eyes, she obviously was not expecting that at all!!
Once again, Automatic, Little Red Wagon and White Liar followed. During White Liar the Irish lady standing next to me said “You know all the words to all the songs!!” I said that it was my 3rd time of seeing her & said where else I had seen her. She said she had never heard of her, it was her daughter who wanted to see her, she pointed to some young girls at the very front, ranging between 10 & 15 I would estimate. The lady then said that Miranda was brilliant & she was going to look her up properly when she got home! So even though Miranda was nowhere near her best she was winning more fans!
After Gunpowder & Lead the band left the stage, leaving Miranda with her guitar. She explained that she couldn’t do an encore, but she wanted to sing Tin Man as it is very important to her, she dedicated it to all lady songwriters. Just as she was about to start, she stopped & asked Gwen to come back & asked her to do the Ohhh ohhhs. This time the crowd sang along, in full volume and is was brilliant to be able to sing it this time!
The band came back on & once again Miranda stage manager came on, the crowd roared in appreciation when they realised the final song was U2, Still Haven’t Found What I Am Looking For. As with Birmingham & London, Miranda joined the band, they stood in a row & all took a bow together, Miranda making it obvious she sees them as a team/family, not her as the super star.
So although Miranda basically sang the same set list each time, I feel as if I saw 3 different shows and the show at Harvestfest goes down as my favourite! I really hope Miranda does come back again and I will certainly be front of the queue to get tickets again!