US country and Americana singer and songwriter Eric Paslay is no stranger to these shores, and tours here now and again. Last here in 2022 and before that in 2019. In fact, he has played this very venue twice before; Bush Hall in Shepherd’s Bush, London.
This trip is for six dates here and two in Ireland, starting in Cardiff on 1st December and closing in Belfast on the 10th. Tonight is the third show of the UK leg before a visit to Germany and then back to the States.
Broadcasting legend Bob Harris is an admirer of Eric’s work and invited him on to his BBC Radio 2 Country show for a live session, aired the night before his tour here kicked off in Wales.
The Perfect Stranger tour – and we have established he isn’t! – is plugging his latest release, the EP “Perfect Stranger” which came out on the same date as the tour began over here.
He has released three studio albums; the self-titled debut in 2014, “Dressed In Black” in 2015, and 2020’s “Nice Guy”. In 2022 he released the compilation, “Even If It Breaks Your Barefoot Friday Night”.
Eric was last here for a month-long tour with The Shires, and tonight one half of that UK act, Ben Earle, joined Eric on stage to sing with him on the song, “Barefoot Blue Jean Night”, which Eric co-wrote for Jake Owen.
Ben also sang with Eric tonight on a second song, a cover of The Proclaimers’ classic, “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles).” Neat bonus to the night though for Ben to guest, and if you haven’t seen The Shires yet, you should.
Eric managed to include Aha’s, “Take On Me” into one of his songs, as well as U2’s “Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”, which he said was the inspiration for one of his own songs, the song “Barefoot Blue Jean Night” at the end of the set.
He likes to sling snatches of big songs into his own songs for a bit of memory triggering, and we got a bit of Dolly Parton’s “9 to 5” and some of Shania’s “Man, I Feel Like A Woman.” Good fun. He gave us a bit of cover of a Harry Styles song, “As It Was” and some of a Taylor Swift track, but not sure which one as I had to nip out for a few mins for a call of nature!
Texas native Eric Paslay has penned a slew of hits, such as Love and Theft’s “Angel Eyes”, Eli Young Band’s “Even If It Breaks Your Heart” and Jake Owen’s “Barefoot Blue Jean Night”, all of which he performed during his set here. Other notable songs tonight included “High Class”, 2017’s “Amarillo Rain” and the co-penned excellent Keith Urban 2021 hit “Wild Hearts”.
He chose a brace of the six tracks from the “Perfect Stranger” EP: the title track and “Best Damn Days”. Fan favourites and hits “Friday Night”, “Song About A Girl” and “She Don’t Love You” went down well tonight.
He had a surprise for someone called JP [who he said was his brother], calling him up on stage to present him with a birthday cake with a single candle on it. [Eric referred to several people as his “brother”, including Ben from The Shires, so I am unsure if JP is actually his brother or not – answers on a postcard!].
Eric, who will be 41 in January 2024, has written five # 1 hits, is a Platinum-selling, Grammy-nominated songwriter and artist, and has an artist Grammy-nomination for Best Country Duo/Group Performance for “The Driver”- a collaboration with friends Charles Kelley and Dierks Bentley.
He is undoubtedly a songwriter’s songwriter, an artist’s artist; the man who the respected USA Today calls “flat out-brilliant”, and who American Songwriter name as an influencer of country music.
On this tour he is solo, just the man, a microphone and an acoustic guitar. Can he hold the attention for the full 90 minute set on his own? You bet your backside he can. The songs are the stars and he serves those songs sublimely.
As my esteemed colleague Alex commented at the end of the show: “That was a masterclass of songwriting “. Could not have put it better myself Al. Can I call you Al? Too late…
He (Eric not Alex!) was relaxed and friendly, and told us some of the stories around the songs and his songwriting. There was a great vibe, which was collectively due to his style of classy music, his personality and a beautiful room with six stunning chandeliers. An all-standing audience tonight.
An intimate crowd who lapped up everything that he played. Very much a respectful “listening room”, with no annoying chatter or mobile ‘phone nonsense.
So, this cold December night was well and truly warmed up by the personality, the songs and the voice of an artist whose talent deserves to be filling much bigger venues than a circa half full 450 capacity [450 standing / 285 seated] Bush Hall.
But, borrowing the moniker of the support act, all of us here tonight will most definitely remember this particular Monday night, for sure. Eric Paslay is a future great in years to come, you see…
There was another guest spot… This time his own support act, British country, pop and folk trio Remember Monday, who were contestants on The Voice here in 2019. On that show they were picked by coach Jennifer Hudson for her team, who still helps them today, having most recently funded the music video for their track “Nothing Nice To Say”, taken from their EP, “Hysterical Women” [watch the video, below].
Lauren Byrne, Holly-Anne Hull and Charlotte Steele did a lovely job opening the night’s proceedings, with a very friendly and likeable manner, and a genuine connection with the audience who enjoyed their half hour slot a lot – and they also joined Eric for the song “She Don’t Love You” in his set.
The trio won Best Group at the British Country Music Awards , and their debut single “Drive” achieved No.1 in the iTunes Country Music Chart. The band has more than 20 million Tik Tok views. Their cover of Queen’s “Fat Bottomed Girls” went viral, with Brian May sharing it on his own Instagram.
They released the EP, “Hysterical Women” in February this year, with songs about frustration and female empowerment.
Lauren, Holly-Anne and Charlotte – met at sixth form college in Hampshire 2011 when they were 17, and have been singing together since, forming Remember Monday in 2018.
- Lauren played Miss Honey in the West End production of Matilda. Her previous credits include Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cinderella and Six The Musical.
- Holly was the Alternate Christine Daaé in the West End production of Phantom of the Opera. Her previous credits include Les Miserables and Loserville.
- Charlotte was Deputy Head of Artemis College – a performing arts sixth form, and also works as a freelance choreographer.
Eric’s Set List:
Best Damn Days
Down The Road
Song About A Girl
Harry Swift [This is a snippet of a Harry Styles song and a Taylor Swift song – written on the set list as “Harry Swift”]
Even If It Breaks Your Heart
She Don’t Love You
Less Than Whole
Still Haven’t Found What I Am Looking For/Barefoot Blue Jean Night
Photos: Alex Asprey
Words: Andy Faith