It was a potentially confusing Sunday afternoon in the Royal Albert Hall. Perched in the rafters of the UK’s most breath-taking concert venue I waited for curtain up, conducting a wine-fuelled debate with my two fellow “Nashies” about whether we there to see actors who could sing or singers who could act. Three hours later we’d know.
I was at the Sunday matinee – an extra show added when the two planned London gigs sold out far too quickly for my slow fingers. The giddy audience were a mix of country music fans (spot the boots) and fans of the TV show who didn’t yet know they were country music fans. From the outset it felt completely different to other country concerts:
It was a strange merging of reality and fiction.
This was a gig by five cast members of addictive TV drama Nashville in which they play musicians… and now they’d be performing the songs of those musicians but out of character, as musicians themselves. Got it? Good. Reality was suspended for a second when actor Chris Carmack took to the stage with a shout of “are there any Will Lexington fans here?” but he had ‘Chris’ emblazoned on his guitar strap as if to remind us that no, we weren’t extras in the show. Still, my mind was a little bit blown everytime Sam “Gunnar” Palladio spoke in an English accent or Clare “Scarlett” Bowen in her Australian one. So, to avoid confusion, the London line up was:
Merging reality with fiction can be tough for some people.
Myself included. I remember losing it whenever characters from Cheers popped in to visit Seattle in Frasier episodes. The girls next to us were having none of the confusion. Every time an audience member shouted “we love you Avery / Gunnar / Deacon…” they’d huff, “that’s not even his name” as though a member of their own family had been insulted.
This was the first time I’ve sat through a concert worried about spoilers.
With the US always a season ahead of us this was a genuine risk but the show was thankfully spoiler free. Unless Sam Palladio’s drastic new hair was a clue. He’s gone blonde. Perhaps in series six Scarlett will go missing and Gunnar will have to stand in for her for their album cover shoot.
The atmosphere was more like a hen party than a gig.
I’d guess the audience was at least 80% female. And rowdy too. Perhaps it was because Scarlett was the only woman in the line up of five and she was flanked by the show’s four main male heartthrobs (confession: a bit of me is still team Luke). The sound of swooning nearly drowned out the harmonies when the Chris, Sam and Jonathan (who’ve played housemates in the series) formed a trio. Of course there was a smattering of dragged-along-boyfriends too; looking bemused and possibly wondering why their own smiles had never evoked the same quivering mess from their other halves as Deacon Claybourne’s.
The fans are in a league of their own.
It was the U.S. fans whose protests saved the TV series when Nashville was axed last year. Here, the UK fans showed they were just as zealous; from the lady in the stalls who cheered like she’d won the lottery after she got a hug from Charles Esten, to the girls down our row as frenzied as tweens at a One Direction concert.
The mania was contagious, though at first it seemed odd to me that there should be more vigour at seeing people who play country singers than I’ve seen for official, full-time country singers. But by the second song I understood. The hype was because everyone else here seemed to already know what we had been trying to decide. Yes, these guys were actors but they were 100% musicians too.
Charles Esten opening the show centre stage on the guitar proved his credentials. Later on in an ensemble song, Sam swapped his guitar for the drums and Chris traded his for a saxophone. But Jonathan Jackson stole the show displaying an epic vocal range in soulful, emotive solos including Dylan and U2’s gospel-tinged Love Rescue Me and a powerful cover of Unchained Melody.
Did you get to any of the UK shows? Let us know below how the other performances went below.