After rave reviews from fans at 2019’s Country2Country, Brett Eldredge is back in the UK with his own five date tour, which kicked off in Cambridge on the 31 January.
To see an artist as big as Eldredge in a venue like the Cambridge Junction is something special. A little rough round the edges, the unassuming 850 capacity hall isn’t where you might expect to see a platinum selling artist. But this is theUK and we, admittedly, do country music smaller on this side of the pond. But we also do country music with a hell of a lot of passion, and Eldredge and his fans lit up this intimate little venue.
Launching his set with a new track – Good Day – might have been risky, but set the theme of giving the crowd an evening of old and new. Things then cranked up a gear with the audience belting out ‘Something I’m Good At’, followed by ‘Don’t Ya’ and ‘Love Someone’, bringing to life the Eldredgeclassics that fans have spent hours listening to at home and now got to hear up close.
There was an equal measure of palpable excitement for Eldredge’s new music. He explained his hiatus over the last year, and the need to take time out to himself to think about the kind of music that he wanted to make. With the promise of a new album later this year, he then sang a new track, ‘Crowd My Mind’. The lyrics came to him whilst on a beach in Malibu and tell the story of thinking about someone everyday even when they’re gone. If this number is indicative of more to come from Eldredge in 2020 then we wait with baited breath.
Next in ‘Drunk on Your Love’ and his cover of Queen classic‘Crazy Little Thing Called Love’, the chemistry between Eldredge and his band is clear. Big shout out goes to Ian Miller on keys who smashed out some exceptional improvisation, which left even Eldredge looking genuinely impressed.
But the quieter acoustic moments in the middle of the set were perhaps the most powerful. Eldredge introduced the first song he’d had on the radio – Raymond – back in 2010, and told of the impact that his Grandmother’s Alzheimer’s had on him. It was a lump-in-throat moment and you could sense the audience pause to listen closer to every word he sang. And off the back of this he pulls out ‘The Long Way’, which sounds more poignant when played acoustically. He barely opened his eyes during these two tracks, the small venue allowing him to feel the emotion all the more personally.
Eldredge relaxes into his set, joking with the Cambridge audience about the classic local boating activity, which he can’t quite remember the name of. “Bunting?” no Brett, “punting” screams the crowd. He laughs that he couldn’t find a punter to take him punting because they’d all been punted. Next time.
The pace notches up with the band back on stage, and the audience are in full bounce mode with ‘Lose My Mind’ and another new track ‘Magnolia’, which fits in seamlessly with the rest of Eldredge’s back catalogue. The swooning then ensues with ‘The Reason’ and ‘Mean to Me’, which continue the journey of emotion that Eldredge is taking us on.
As the evening is reaching its final songs, I notice that Eldredge has achieved the country music phenomena of reaching fans who span the generations. The eleven year-old boy stood in front of me, who’s come straight from school and jumps up and down enthusiastically to Fire, or the older retired couple to the right, swaying to ‘Wanna Be That Song’, who make me ponder whether I should have brought mydaughter or my dad. There is no age group who can’t in some way relate to Eldredge, whether it is the deep emotion of his slower tracks or the cheeky humour of some of the more upbeat ones.
There would have been a riot of course, if there hadn’t been an encore and the night wraps up with ‘Beat of the Music’. Eldredge takes a few moments to sign autographs and take photos with the front row, and the only slump of the evening comes when the audience realise that it’s all over.
If the crowd came to see Brett Eldredge though, they left talking about Lauren Jenkins too. It takes a big voice to hold a crowd over a thirty minute set with just an acoustic guitar, and she won over many new fans. Named the Artist to Watch by the New York Times, Billboard and Rolling Stone, the husky rasping tones of Jenkins filled the Cambridge Junction, with the highlights including the brilliant ‘Running out of Road’ from her album ‘No Saint’.
Jenkins tells a good story, and introduces ‘My Bar’ as the song that she wrote about the “jerk” who cheated on her and then brought the girl to have a drink in the bar she worked in. Don’t cross Jenkins or you’ll end up in a song, and a good one at that.
She asks whether anyone over here in the UK knows what a koozie is, which is received with a mumbling mixed reaction. Well she’s trying to make a living, and her sister is selling koozies at the merch table, and she herself will be selling koozies at the merch table after this set, so buy her koozies,people.
But it’s Brett’s tour, and he should have the last word. Surely next time he comes to the UK, Cambridge Junction will be considered too small a venue for the tour. So fans who saw him here will be holding onto the memory of the night we got to see superstar Brett Eldredge, just a few metres away.
31 January, Cambridge Junction, Cambridge
1 February, O2 Institute Birmingham, Birmingham
3 February, O2 Ritz Manchester, Manchester
4 February, The Old Fruitmarket, Glasgow
7 February, O2 Shepherds Bush Empire, London