The C2C: Country To Country Festival appears to be a successful means of broadcasting talent for the first time to UK audiences. As a result, there have been multiple artists who’ve since successfully toured the UK, with Thomas Rhett being one. A relatively short UK tour, it was Manchester’s turn for a country injection. It seemed a mystery as to who the support act would be, it hadn’t been advertised on flyers or any ticketing websites although her’ say was it was to be Rhett’s father Rhett Akins. Upon arrival it was true; Rhett Akins was the support act.
Hitting the stage at 8pm, Akins appeared just a man and his guitar. One thing apparent from the initial audience interactions was the sincerity; he was appreciative and acknowledged the privilege to be playing to a sold-out crowd in a different continent, let alone country.
Opening the set was the classic signature song ‘That Aint My Truck’, which was met with great all round applause with many joining in lyric for lyric. While Akins may be a more prolific songwriter these days than performer, one thing’s for sure is he still has his pipes. After a short speech about Akins’ songwriting credits on many country heavyweights, he performed a dignified 40-minute set consisting largely of those aforementioned in his speech. Part way through his unostentatious set he pulled onstage a sign that read “Rhett I’ll be your Loretta if you’ll be my Conway Twitty” and jokingly stated he was flattered by such a touching sentiment, which was met with a sea of laughter.
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Having stated that there was no predetermined set list, in favour of a more improvised way of working joking “This is why I don’t get paid”. Akins rounded the set with an unusual choice in Blake Shelton’s ‘Boys Round Here’. Regardless, acoustically it completely changed the entire feel of the song from the usual Bro-Country/Hip Hop identity of the original. Needless to say, it’s evident that night Rhett Akins won over a multitude of new fans through sheer talent and his down to earth personality.
The anticipation for headliner Thomas Rhett was high; this would be his first ever UK tour, many dates of which had sold out. A light spectacle dominated the stage, erratically flashing over the thousands of heads before the backing band made an appearance shortly followed by Rhett. Wasting no time ‘Anthem’, coincidentally the opening track on ‘Tangled Up’, set the tone for things to come; a high-velocity onslaught generating a mass dance and sing along. Succeeding was the addictive, hip-shaking ‘Makes Me Wanna’ following the same style, with funk overtones.
Rhett even showed personality traits akin to his father during his crowd interactions; noticing a fan with a Texas trucker cap and questioning whether he was from Texas to which the crowd member replied no with Rhett jokingly inferring an imposter was amongst us.
Before the Garth Brook penned ‘Friends In Low Places,’ Rhett engaged with the crowd requesting a volunteer to assist in singing the track, ushering onstage a female fan who was astounding, singing lead for the majority of the track.
Towards the middle section of the set stagehands lined up three stools centre stage, it could mean only one thing: a stripped down section. Rhett accompanied by his guitarists began with ‘Beer With Jesus’ proclaimed by Rhett, who wrote the song at the age of 19, to be one of his favourite songs he’s written.
Shortly before the culmination of the acoustic three-song segment, it was noticeable just how diverse the age group of Rhett’s fan base really was, asking the audience what decade they were born in with one member being born in the 1940’s!Arguably the peak of the performance was the affectionate ‘Die A Happy Man’. A song written with his wife Lauren in mind, displayed a different side to Rhett from the upbeat,
Arguably the peak of the performance was the affectionate ‘Die A Happy Man’. A song written with his wife Lauren in mind, displayed a different side to Rhett from the upbeat, dance-provoking party tracks to this humbly bare, honestly passionate quality. While the chart friendly, poppy ‘Crash & Burn’ would have been an understandable contender to close with, a subsequent encore was inevitable.
After a short moment, Rhett and band left and returned to stage blaring the addictively catchy ‘Vacation’. Concluding the evening in superlative fashion, inviting Rhett Akins onto the stage once again to collaborate on the track ‘Parking Lot Party’ penned by the father and son for fellow country artist Lee Brice.
For Rhett’s first time in Manchester, a sold out show of 1,500 tickets and performing with his father is reassurance for an evening he, his father and the audience wouldn’t be forgetting anytime soon.
Rhett Akins – Set List
That Aint My Truck
When She Says Baby
Huntin’, Fishin’ & Lovin’ Everyday
Mama Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys
Lonesome Whistle (Hank Williams cover)
Tonight Looks Good On You
Kiss My Country Ass/Long Haired Country Boy medley
Boys Round Here
Thomas Rhett – Set List
Makes Me Wanna
Tangled/Cake By The Ocean (DNCE cover)
Star Of The Show
The Day You Start Lookin’ Back
Friends In Low Places (Garth Brooks cover)
I Feel Good
It Goes Like This
Beer With Jesus
Round Here (Florida Georgia Line cover)
Your Cheating Heart/Tennessee Whiskey
Die A Happy Man
Get Me Some Of That
Crash N Burn
Parking Lot Party (with Rhett Akins)