Modern Country has really taken hold of the radio airplay charts, and the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, in the US. Over the past few years most of the leading players have been over to the UK but there’s been one omission – Kane Brown. Without a doubt one of the biggest breakthrough acts of the last five years, Kane first caught attention in 2015 with his single Used to Love You Sober. His big break came in 2017 when he released What Ifs, a song that featured Lauren Alaina, which scored him his first number one. Since then his star has been seriously on the rise and last night he finally came to London for his debut show in the UK.
Lots has been written about Kane over the years with his detractors accusing him of not being Country enough. Over here in the UK we’re less concerned with pigeon-holing artists and holding them up to some unwritten criteria; instead we appreciate good music and we can spot talent when we see it. Going into the gig, I didn’t really know what to expect as I like Kane’s music, but I wouldn’t say his albums are my go-to. It only took me two songs to understand the hype and I can safely say after seeing him last night, I’ve got a new-found appreciation of his unique and special talent.
Opening with Baby Come Back, the first track from his second album Experiment, Kane wasted no time in getting the audience on their feet and rowdy. Over the course of his 18-song set list, he moved effortlessly through genres, all the while keeping his distinctive stamp evident. What Ifs got an expectedly loud reaction and watching him perform it solo made you realise that he didn’t really need a collaborator on the track in the first place. He has such a natural warmth and charm on stage, that he can sell anything he sings and it’s his talent that’s the draw.
What really struck me throughout the show was the quality of Kane’s vocals. He didn’t miss a beat and he also showcased every part of his range. On Used to Love You Sober he brought out fragility and vulnerability, on the tear-jerking For My Daughter you were moved by his poetic and introspective lyrics, and on the 90s throwback Short Skirt Weather, he let his voice play around in the melody. The rockier Like a Rodeo combined R&B with country rock, allowing him to unleash the grittier parts of his voice.
Showing he’s no one trick pony, Kane left me with my jaw on the floor following a piano-led rendition of Homesick. There’s so much soul to his vocal but that natural Country twang turns his tone into something unique. Throughout the set he told stories of his upbringing and the struggles of his mother to make ends meet. That was captured on the speak-sing verses of Learning and he really endeared himself to the audience.
During the middle of the set Kane launched into covers of The All-American Rejects’ Gives You Hell and Ben E. King’s Stand By Me, the latter he mashed up with Sean Kingston’s Beautiful Girls. Those songs highlighted some of his influences and you can see how his love for those kinds of tracks has shaped the music he’s recording and making now.
The gorgeous Heaven, the closing track from his debut album, arrived just before the encore and once again let Kane’s voice shine brightly. It was a goose-pimple-inducing moment and showed that there’s so much more to him than many people think. For the encore Kane returned to perform Lose It, a high-energy track that was another number one for him in the US. It was the perfect end to a tour-de-force performance from one of the brightest stars of the genre.
I may have gone into the gig not knowing what to expect but I came out a huge fan. For those that like to say Kane’s not Country, just listen to his lyrics and tell me those classic stories aren’t the heart of the genre. For those that like to criticise his blending of genres, take a listen to For My Daughter and tell me that’s not pure Country. Last night was a special moment for Kane and it hopefully starts a long relationship with his (passionate) fanbase here in the UK. During his 90-minute set, Kane didn’t put a foot wrong and I can’t wait to see him soar even higher when his new music arrives later in the year. As a performer, he ranks among the best I’ve seen.
Set list: 1. Baby Come Back 2. What Ifs 3. Weekend 4. Used to Love You Sober 5. Good As You / Hey Jude 6. Learning 7. For My Daughter 8. Homesick 9. Short Skirt Weather 10. Like a Rodeo 11. One Thing Right 12. Gives You Hell (The All-American Rejects cover) 13. Stand By Me (Ben E. King cover) / Beautiful Girls (Sean Kingston cover) 14. Jump (Kriss Kross instrumental cover) 15. Found You 16. Put It Off 17. Heaven 18. Lose It Performance date: 4th February 2020