Chart-topping US-based country quartet Little Big Town make their North East debut to a full house at the Sage Gateshead.

Having stolen the show at last year’s Country to Country festival, the Grammy Award-winning act has crossed the pond once more. The band arrives in the region mid-way through their current UK run.

In recent times Little Big Town has firmly established themselves as one of the most exciting country acts on the international touring circuit. Throughout Little Big Town’s much celebrated 18-year career, the group have picked up a treasure trove of accolades and awards including multiple Grammy, CMA and ACM awards, and an Emmy award to boot.

In addition in 2014, the group also gained membership to the Grand Ole Opry as well as recently becoming the first act in history to have a residency at the prestigious Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. During the course of the evening, the band affectionately describe the latter as ‘the mother church of country music’.

This evening the group are joined by one of the breakout stars of the country music scene, Seth Ennis. The 24-year-old both captivates and commands the crowd from the off. Throughout his set, Ennis often switches between his trusty acoustic guitar and his keyboard as he takes the audience through tracks from the Mabelle EP.

Ballads like “Think and Drive”, his take on Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud” and set closer “Woke up in Nashville” charms the Gateshead audience. Ennis leaves the stage to a much-deserved standing ovation, and judging by his performance this evening we doubt it will be long before he makes his return to our UK shores.

As the house lights fall over the room, The Steeldrivers “Drinkin’ Dark Whiskey” plays over the venue’s PA system, which really sets the tone for the evening ahead.

As Little Big Town takes to the stage they waste no time in delving into their latest record The Breaker kicking off their set with the up-tempo “Night On Our Side”. Throughout the course of the band’s well balanced 90-minute set, they deliver the lion’s share of their latest offering, with as many as seven tracks from the record included in the show. This includes the likes of the band’s current Taylor Swift-penned radio hit single “Better Man” to which they proudly declare was recently covered by One Direction’s Harry Styles, the heartfelt “When Someone Stops Loving You” and the deeply emotive “Don’t Die Young, Don’t Get Old”.

On the other hand, there is a real anthemic quality to fan favourites like “Day Drinking” and “Pontoon”, which each, in turn, has the crowd hanging on every word.

Looking at the band as a whole, there is some very tight stage chemistry within the group. The quartet is often found collectively centre stage bouncing off each other’s vocal performances. In addition, Little Big Town’s four core members showcase their individual talent also, throughout the course of the show they each take their turn on lead vocal duties; there is no weak link in this uber-talented troupe.

The country music world is still mourning the loss of the great Don Williams back in September. Tonight Little Big Town takes the opportunity to pay homage to the great man himself with an incredible cover of “I Believe in You”, which is later segued into a beautiful rendition of “When Dove’s Cry” by Prince.

Perhaps the most surprising point in the show is Little Big Town’s take on the Oasis hit single “Wonderwall”, which is performed like you’ve never heard it before. The band put their own unique country spin on this timeless indie classic, with some beautiful four-way vocal harmonies.

Alicia Keys recently performed a cover of Little Big Town’s hit single “Girl Crush” at the ACM awards and tonight the band reciprocate to Keys with a spellbinding interpretation of Alicia’s signature number “Fallin’”. This performance alone is enough to make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.

“Stay All Night” signals the band is approaching the end of the show. Little Big Town race towards the finish line with a frantic rendition of “Save Your Sin”, before bringing their main set to a close with “Girl Crush”. The whole room is up on their feet as the band leaves the stage. Whistles reverberate around the room, accompanied by the stomping of feet and frenzied clapping which collectively spurs on the band to return to the stage to take their duly deserved encore.

After a brief intermission, Little Big Town is played back onto the stage with some funky slide guitar infused groves from their incredible four-piece backing band. Encouraged by the almost fever pitch atmosphere in the room the band blows the roof off the Sage Gateshead with their huge sounding country-rock number “Turn The Lights On”. However, like all good things, the show must come to an end, and in this instance, that end takes the shape of old favourite “Boondocks” from the band’s 2005 sophomore album The Road to Here.

Little Big Town is built upon a solid foundation of sublime vocal harmonies, catchy hooks and infectious melodies. The crowd in attendance at the Sage Gateshead this evening can’t help but be swept away by Little Big Town’s distinctive brand of crowd-pleasing, upbeat, contemporary country music.

Little Big Town
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Seth Ennis
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Event Date: 01-Oct-2017

About The Author

Adam Kennedy is an experienced music photographer based in northeast England. He has been shooting concerts for several years, predominantly with the band Vintage Trouble. In 2013, he was one of their tour photographers, covering the UK and Ireland tour including the headline shows and as opening act for The Who. As an accomplished concert photographer, Adam's work has been featured in print such as, Classic Rock Blues Magazine, Guitarist Magazine, Blues in Britain magazine, broadcast on the MDA Telethon on ABC Television in the US, used in billboard advertising for Renaissance Hotels in the US, and featured online via music blogs such as Uber Rock and Guitar Planet. He is also the official photographer at Newcastle Rock and Blues Club.

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