Walking into the Astor with my jeans and Ariats was nothing short of feeling like this is exactly where I needed to be, and from the buzz in the air and huge smiles of the crowd slowly making their way in, they felt the same. Big hoops, Akubras and boots tells you everything you need to know – we are here for the Country!
Morgan Evans, an Aussie guy from Newcastle who has been experiencing highs and lows while living his dream in Nashville finally comes back home to share it all. Morgan was supported by James Johnston, another Aussie Country artist, and admittedly, he wasn’t someone I was familiar with or come across on my playlist…until now!
James is from Wingham, a small country town of New South Wales, who is about to release his debut album ‘Raised Like That’. He came out doing a solo session, just him and his guitar and let me tell you – this guy has charisma! From the moment ‘Raised like That’ started, I instantly knew I’d been missing out on something. The crowd was pumped, and instantly started singing along with him.
Through ‘Country Boys’, ‘We Grew Up On’, ‘My People’ along with an unreleased song he just finished writing with Troy Cassar-Daley which tells a story of a young man trying to make his dad proud, James managed to make a personal connection with everyone in the crowd. Then there was his stage presence with just his guitar, he was enigmatic, engaging and I couldn’t help but trying to learn the songs just so I could join in. All I can say for certain is James Johnston is now firmly embedded in my playlist and whenever I’m looking for something upbeat and to bring along the good feels, I’ll be looking towards his new album.
Then came Morgan Evans, the stage was flooded with lights that lit up the Astor’s ceiling, bringing it to life with some old Country songs like ‘True Blue’. Then he walked on stage and phew…excuse me while I fan myself, going fan girl is a new feeling for me and I don’t think I was the only one there that night. Morgan’s smile was brilliant, and despite this being his last show of the tour he certainly did not let us down, he bought all the enthusiasm and energy I had hoped for.
I don’t know what it is about Country fans, but they seem to be the most exuberant, excitable and engaged crowds no matter where I go. Singing along to each and every song, tears shining in their eyes during songs of heartbreak and joyous dancing telling you they feel each and every lyric right to their marrow.
Morgan started with ‘Young Again’ which perfectly matched the current pace left by James, followed by a slower but beautiful ‘I Do’ which had everyone swaying in sync. Morgan showed us he hasn’t forgotten what it is to be Australian with ‘Waltzing Matilda’, this pretty much set the tone for the rest of the night. It didn’t seem to matter which song Morgan played next, from ‘Love is Real’, ‘Over For You’ or ‘Hey Little Mama’ every single person in the Astor was singing along, swaying, dancing and beaming with happiness. The greatest part was seeing that Morgan seemed to be enjoying the moment as much as us, his grin was contagious, even adding ‘Dance with Me’ to the set as a special thanks to those who have tagged him in their special moments with this song.
Despite knowing some of his songs have come from a turbulent time in his life, you could tell Morgan had put everything into this new Album and even if you don’t like Country it would have been impossible to not feel something. The night ended with a perfect ‘Day Drunk’, making me want to yell the lyrics while my cheeks hurt from smiling. But Morgan didn’t let us down, coming back out one last time to leave us all with a feeling of hope with ‘On My Own Again’. With my eyes closed, hand on my heart and feeling every lyric, I think he even converted my plus one to Country.