Brothers Osborne have become one of the most popular live acts amongst UK country fans since they made their debut here at C2C 2017. Known for their country-rock sound, lead guitarist John’s killer licks and vocalist TJ’s deep, gravelly tones, they’re now regular visitors on this side of the pond, most recently this spring following the release of their sophomore album Port Saint Joe. This week they returned for their second nationwide headline tour, culminating last night with a sold-out show at the Forum in London’s Kentish Town.
TJ and John arrived on stage with their band around 9.15 and opened their set with Drank Like Hank, from their current album. The Southern rock-influenced ode to a night of partying definitely got the night off to a high-energy start, as well as showing off the drawl and gravel in TJ’s voice. Right from the off the crowd were clapping and singing along, with TJ encouraging them to be louder – and they happily obliged with a huge cheer at the end! They then moved into the swaggering, funky Shoot Me Straight, which saw the first of many outstanding guitar solos from John. He gave a fiery performance, with his fingers flying up and down the guitar neck in a way that looked completely effortless, and the crowd roared their approval as the song drew to a close.
It was clear that the band was in a celebratory mood and determined to finish their tour on a raucous high. TJ in particular frequently called on the audience to ‘get rowdy’ on fan favourites such as the twangy, playful Greener Pastures, the soulful yet anthemic Down Home, Tequila Again with its honky-tonk vibe and the summery, laid-back Rum, which finished with the crowd singing solo. The duo also came off as warm and engaging on stage, regularly cracking jokes and telling stories from the road, as well as recalling their previous visit to the Forum when they supported The Cadillac Three last year.
One of the best things about a Brothers Osborne show is John’s incredible guitar playing, and this set was no exception. Some of the standout moments included his electrifying solo on the defiant, impassioned Burning Man, with him throwing his head back and standing on the speakers as his fingers moved at lightning speed, and his epic finish to Stay A Little Longer with a rattling, wailing riff that drew a roar of approval from the audience. He also showed that his skills extend to speed mandolin playing on the duo’s atmospheric, fiery cover of Steve Earle’s classic Copperhead Road.
However, whilst there were plenty of uptempo tunes to enjoy, many of my favourite moments came in the slower numbers. Current single I Don’t Remember Me (Before You) was an early highlight, with its dreamy verses and huge chorus, as well as tons of emotion and conviction from TJ. Meanwhile, the bluesy Weed, Whiskey And Willie was one of the more old-school country songs in the set, and TJ’s pain was palpable as he sang.
The band closed out the main portion of their set with It Ain’t My Fault. It’s always a highlight of their shows and one that gets everyone in a great mood. TJ got the crowd fired up with a call and response section before the band launched into the song, accompanied by thunderous clapping along as the audience sang along in full voice. Midway through John seamlessly switched into a funky, bluesy riff that took on an almost psychedelic feel as he walked backwards across the stage, before delivering a guttural yell and a full-throttle finale to the song itself. The audience continued to sing even after the lights went out, demanding more music, until the band came back on stage with John holding his fist aloft.
For their five-song encore, Brothers Osborne opened with the 90s rock-influenced Heart Shaped Locket before moving into the swaggering Pawn Shop, the title track from their debut album. They then brought opener Lucie Silvas out on stage to perform a stripped-down version of Lovin’ Me Back. TJ and Lucie’s vocals blended together beautifully and their power and passion was a perfect match, whilst John delivered yet another great guitar riff to accompany them. To finish the show, they performed the funky, playful A Couple Wrongs Makin’ It Alright and a driving, jaunty rendition of John Denver’s Take Me Home, Country Roads, which saw TJ deliver a huge final note. As the song ended the duo held their guitars above their heads, whilst the audience cheered loud enough to take the roof off the Forum.
Brothers Osborne are known for their ability to put on a show and last night was definitely a non-stop party from beginning to end. Both TJ’s vocals and John’s guitar-playing skills were showcased to perfection and there was a great balance between covers and original material, as well as the livelier party tunes and more downbeat ballads. They’re incredibly entertaining to watch live and their jam-packed, slick set absolutely flew by. It shouldn’t be long before they’re back in the UK once again – John promised to return towards the end of the set – and when they do they’ll surely be selling out even bigger venues.
Set list: 1. Drank Like Hank 2. Shoot Me Straight 3. I Don’t Remember Me (Before You) 4. Weed, Whiskey And Willie 5. Greener Pastures 6. Down Home 7. Rum 8. Burning Man 9. Tequila Again 10. 21 Summer 11. Copperhead Road (Steve Earle cover) 12. Stay A Little Longer 13. It Ain’t My Fault 14. Heart Shaped Locket 15. Pawn Shop 16. Lovin’ Me Back (with Lucie Silvas) 17. A Couple Wrongs Makin’ It Alright 18. Take Me Home, Country Roads (John Denver cover) Performance date: 2nd December 2018