Nashville comes to Dublin with a very impressive stage show that builds upon the success of the TV series which has been embraced by so many fans both inside America and beyond.
The TV show portrays the Country Music Industry in Nashville with a strong ensemble of interesting characters, some terrific music and plots that rival the oil-industry intrigue of Dallas, back in the days when such TV shows were in their infancy. It has captured the hearts and minds of so many outside of the USA as witnessed by the wildly enthusiastic reaction given to these musicians /actors who make the trip to England and Ireland for their first tour outside of the USA.
The presence of bona fide TV stars who can both ‘walk the walk and talk the talk’ is very rare and the individual talent on display at the 3 Arena is very impressive when you witness the live performances of Charles Esten (Deacon Claybourne), Sam Palladio (Gunnar Scott), Chris Carmack (Will Lexington), Clare Bowen (Scarlett O’Connor), Jonathan Jackson (Avery Barkley) and others.
Each takes the stage solo for a few songs before being joined by another famous character from the show, either to sing together or to take over for the next section of the show. This diversity creates a very enjoyable tempo to the overall performance with each performer staying only long enough to achieve the maximum reaction from the audience before handing over the microphone to the next in line.
The principal artists are backed up by a wonderful 5-piece band that is led by guitar maestro Colin Linden. This backing band are supremely talented and the diversity of songs hold no real challenge as they rise to the occasion with subtle playing across a range of instruments, together with driving rhythms that add to the dynamic required on many of the song structures.
If you do not watch the TV show then these songs will mean little in terms of their titles but most are originals, written by the musicians who act in the series, together with a number of co-writes with renowned Nashville song-writers. The show has a number of highlights and it is the vocal power of the individual performers that impresses most. The cynical among us may assume that these actors have their vocal parts overdubbed for TV but hearing them sing live just blows this myth out of the water. It is rare to also see such ease displayed by the singers on their musical instruments with Chris Carmack stealing the show for his inventive playing on guitars and saxophone.
He kicks things off with a fine version of What If I Was Willing which is one of Will’s key songs from the TV series. Later in the show he returns to deliver a great Pieces of You and a B.B. King cover of Sweet Little Angel.
When Clare Bowen speaks of her little brother who has been seriously ill and her recent bone marrow donation to him, there is a hushed silence in the arena that empathises totally with the pain behind her very personal story. Clare then sings Love Steps In a song written for her brother by her fiancée Brandon Robert Young and Justin Halpin and the audience reaction to her heart-felt vocal is both genuine and prolonged, bringing Clare to tears as she stands in the moment shared by all. It is a magical performance and she adds to her great charm with a performance that sees her own the stage across songs like Premonition and When The Right One Comes Along.
Jonathan Jackson speaks very fondly of Ireland and the fact that he honeymooned here with his wife; indeed, they celebrate their wedding anniversary the very next day after this show. He is a very genuine performer with a great vocal range which he shows on a killer version of the U2 song Love Rescue Me. He also sings a song for his wife Only Love Remains and performs as part of the TV show trio, the Zag Band alongside Sam Pallagio and Chaley Rose, who plays Zoey Dalton on the series and follows the trend of delivering a very assured vocal performance.
Sam Palladio plays a number of songs solo, from show favourite Count On Me to a song for his Grandad called Wake Me Up in Nashville, while a duet with Clare Bowen Fade into You was also a real highlight.
Charles Esten is a real heart-throb for the female fans of the TV show and he delivers a really confident performance with songs such as Just Like New, I Know How to Love You Now, No One Will Ever Love You and a duet with Clare, Hand to Hold which sees both performers leave the stage to join the audience in the song performance.
A new song He Ain’t Me is followed by Till the Next Time when all performers take to the stage for a grand finale. An encore of favourite A Life That’s Good brings the evening to a very positive conclusion with both performers and audience completely connected in unison and singing along in celebration of an evening that had a little of everything.
The overall sense of belonging to this extended family is was perfectly summed up by Clare Bowen when she spoke of being yourself at all times and "never let anybody kick dust on your sparkle" …
The TV programme just ended the 4th series in America and has been picked up by CMT for a 5th season. This seems to be a perfect fit for the TV series going forward and with such a devoted following, which will only grow bigger on the back of the superb song-writing talents of all concerned, we are witness to a real feel-good experience in a time of gathering storm clouds and uncertainty in the World. It is true that music is the great healer and long may Nashville spread the happiness generated on nights like this.
Review and photograph by Paul McGee