The TV series, Nashville, has proven to be a great success ever since it first hit our screens back in 2012. Now, as the sixth series plays out, the decision has been taken to pack up all the guitars and head off into the sunset. There is something quite poignant about a show ending when it is still very popular but perhaps that is the best time to end the love affair in order to retain the happy memories?
Returning to Dublin, just 10 months since their last appearance, Charles Esten (Deacon Claybourne), Sam Palladio (Gunnar Scott), Chris Carmack (Will Lexington), Clare Bowen (Scarlett O’Connor) and Jonathan Jackson (Avery Barkley) continue to bring the WOW factor and this was a night that left everyone feeling like they were a part of one big happy family.
The very enthusiastic crowd are fully invested in each of the performers and cheer along every song and story shared over three hours in what proved to be a really enjoyable night. Given that the cast who make the trip are the same as last year, the risk of repeating the same lines is always a concern, but happily no such thoughts could be further away as the attitude of these actors/artists is fully focused and they turn in enthusiastic and honest performances that display impressive talents throughout.
Each performer takes the stage in a solo capacity for a few songs, before being joined by another of the principal actors, either to sing together or to take over for the next section of the show. This formula works very well and the smooth handovers add greatly to the momentum of the show which never flags as we build towards the end of the evening. The live set stretches to 28 songs with plenty of new material in order to keep the fans guessing and there were less than 10 songs repeated from the last time the entourage played here.
Of course, there are the key favourites like Hand To Hold, where Charles Esten & Clare Bowen leave the stage and walk through the crowd before returning to relative safety (Esten remarks that "Irish women are a lot stronger than they look"). He is the most charismatic of performers and holds the attention of the female population with passionate performances of songs like Sideshow, Good Rain Or Jesus, Sanctuary and He Ain’t Me.
There are great combinations with Sam Palladio and Chris Camack on guitars playing Right Where You Want Me, Goin’ Electric (a new song yet to be screened) and Don’t Come Easy, which features Palladio behind the drumkit.
Jonathan Jackson hints at where his future focus might lie with wonderful vocal gymnastics during his cameo and songs like Keep Asking Why and A Shock To The System display his guitar skills, while a cover version of the Simple Minds tune, Belfast Child, is superbly delivered and most affecting. But it is the killer version of Unchained Melody (the Righteous Brothers classic) that really brings the venue to its feet in a standing ovation, as Jackson puts everything into a quite compelling performance.
There are The Exes from the TV show performing Borrow My Heart (Palladio, Bowen & Jackson), Fade Into You (Palladio & Bowen), Wake Me Up In Nashville and Adios Old Friend (Palladio solo), that have the crowd singing along, but the really spine-tingling highlights are captured by Bowen performing When The Right One Comes Along, which has an intro of the Irish traditional song She Moved Through The Fair; Jonathan Jackson paying tribute to Dolores O’Riordan with her song No Need To Argue; Esten speaking of the faith, hope and redemption that carries us through hard times as he dedicated the song Sanctuary to his Father.
The music of the show will endure and the fellowship of community is the abiding message as all the principal performers take to the stage for the final encore, I’ve Got A Life That’s Good. It is a very appropriate message to leave with Dublin on a night where a lot of emotions were on display and a lot of joy was shared between lovers of good music and what felt like old friends.
Review by Paul McGee Photography by Ronnie Norton