Opening was talented singer-songwriter Brett Young who played a five song set. Backed by guitarist and a drummer without sticks he was very received by the crowd and included a version of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. It’s a testament to Cohen’s lasting influence that so many young American songwriters hold him in such high esteem. Young played tracks from his debut self-titled album including Sleep With You and In Case You Didn’t Know.
Main support came from Kelsea Ballerini who came out with all guns blazing for a rocky, poppy and not-very-country high energy set. Backed by five musicians, including a lead guitarist who seemed to think he was in a heavy metal band, she performed several tracks from her The First Time album and previewed from her forthcoming November release Unapologetically. The crowd loved her.
Lady A made an impressive entrance, with trombonist and trumpeter dueling manically at the front of a darkened stage. The first track Downtown was followed by Our Kind Of Love and This City, the first of five tracks from their latest album Heart Break. A slick band backed the trio, but the show unfortunately suffered from the dreaded sound curse of the large arena, giving a slightly muddied sound and the vocals were further down the mix than they deserved to be.
The band founders Charles Kelley, Hilary Scott and Dave Haywood were superb throughout, professional and polished. Highlights of the show included Heart Break and the rollicking You Look Good in which the brass section stole the show.
Midway through the set the trio dispensed with the band for two numbers, with Haywood at the piano and Kelley and Scott showing their vocal talents with Hurt, their track not the Johnny Cash/Nine Inch Nails song. They then brought on Young and Ballerini to perform the Shania Twain track You’re Still The One.
The group were having a wonderful time, demob happy at the end of a long tour, which caught the mood of the crowd perfectly. When Kelley sang Love Don’t Love Here deep in the crowd on the arena floor this was a masterclass in how to make a connection with the audience.
Inevitably the encore featured the group’s super hit Need you Now which was sensational, with what seemed like the whole of the O2 singing along to the immortal line “it’s a quarter after one, I’m a little drunk and I need you now”. Wonderful.