It’s hard to believe Eric Paslay has only been performing in the UK for a few years. The Texas-born singer-songwriter has rapidly won over audiences here for his distinctive vocals and high-energy shows, including appearances at the much-missed Borderline for Country Music Week 2018 and at The Long Road Festival earlier this month. This week he’s been travelling the country with his Nice Guy Tour, finishing with a show at Bush Hall in London.
Accompanied by his three-piece band, Paslay arrived on stage shortly after 9.15 and opened his set with High Class, which he released back in 2015. It’s a rocky, high-energy number with a stomping rhythm that showed off the depth in his voice as he delivered the quickfire lyrics. The crowd were singing along throughout and burst into loud cheers as he brought the song to a close.
Over the next 90 minutes, Paslay mixed songs from his debut album with a smattering of singles. I particularly liked his willingness to embrace different sounds and styles throughout his performance, whether that was the bluesy Song About A Girl with its distorted guitar and smooth, powerful vocals or the classic rock vibes of Mysterious Ways and Keep On Fallin’, where he could be seen jamming with his band. He also had great stage presence, frequently encouraging the audience to join in, telling stories about the tour and his previous trips to the UK, and cracking jokes about how his voice was starting to go after almost three weeks on the road (not that you would have known it!).
One thing which often surprises people about Paslay is the number of songs he’s written for other artists, including Angel Eyes – made famous by Love And Theft – which he put a rocky spin on and hit a massive note at the end, and the upbeat, detailed Barefoot Blue Jean Night which was a massive hit for Jake Owen. However, the standout for me was Even If It Breaks Your Heart, originally recorded by Eli Young Band. The song’s huge chorus and rocky feel suit Paslay’s voice absolutely perfectly and he got the audience singing along too, particularly in the slowed-down final section. He also performed a great cover of Mike Posner’s I Took A Pill In Ibiza which had a lowkey feel to it and really brought out the song’s cautionary tale elements.
For me, Paslay particularly shone in the slower songs. An early highlight was the subdued Amarillo Rain, where he showed great control and brought out the richness in his vocal along with a little bit of an edge. I loved all the vivid imagery in the lyrics too and was seriously impressed by his going for some huge notes. Meanwhile, heartfelt new track Woman Like Her was full of warmth and honesty, and a raw, acoustic take on the bittersweet She Don’t Love You had the crowd absolutely spellbound before they erupted with the biggest cheers of the night. On a completely different note, I also loved Nice Guy with its thumping beat, swaggering sunny groove and biting lyrics (as well as a very impressive solo from bandmate Dan!). It’s a side of Paslay we haven’t seen much of before and one I’ll be interested to find out if the next record explores further.
Paslay closed his set by thanking the crowd for coming out in a very moving speech, before performing Less Than Whole. His voice rang out through Bush Hall and it was clear he was giving the song absolutely everything he had. He followed that with the uptempo Friday Night, his breakthrough hit in the US, which had the crowd singing and clapping along from the off and was full of punchy drums and sharp guitar licks, as well as a call-and-response singalong chorus.
Overall, despite some vocal issues, I thought Eric Paslay delivered a high-energy, entertaining show that showed off his skills as both a performer and a songwriter. He has a great connection with the crowd as well as some serious lyrical ability, and it’s not hard to see why UK audiences have fallen completely in love with him. Based on last night’s set it’s clear the feeling is mutual. I’m really looking forward to the new album and hope he’ll be back in the UK soon so we can hear them live.
Set list: 1. High Class 2. Song About A Girl 3. Angel Eyes (made famous by Love And Theft) 4. Mysterious Ways 5. Amarillo Rain 6. Keep On Fallin’ 7. Young Forever 8. Even If It Breaks Your Heart (made famous by Eli Young Band) 9. Woman Like Her 10. I Took A Pill In Ibiza (Mike Posner cover) 11. Nice Guy 12. Barefoot Blue Jean Night (made famous by Jake Owen) 13. She Don’t Love You 14. Less Than Whole 15. Friday Night Performance date: 12th September 2019
Eric Paslay’s new album, Live In Glasgow, will be available on 20th September.