One of the biggest rising stars of Country music right now is undoubtedly Kelsea Ballerini. Since the release of her debut album The First Time in 2015, Kelsea has notched up three consecutive number one hits – Love Me Like You Mean It, Dibs and Peter Pan – and she’s looking likely to clinch her fourth with current single Yeah Boy. With all the buzz around her I’m surprised she didn’t form part of this year’s C2C: Country to Country line-up. Last night Kelsea made her UK live debut performing at Under the Bridge.
From the moment she walked on stage, it was clear that Kelsea was going to deliver a big show regardless of the intimate size of the venue she was playing in. Video screens flashed up the title to her latest hit Yeah Boy as the band started to play the opening chords. Kelsea bounced onto the stage with a huge smile as she gave an energetic performance of the track. Within seconds the audience was singing along to every word and the atmosphere at Under the Bridge was electric.
For the most part Kelsea’s set list consisted of songs from The First Time. The empowering Square Pegs was an early highlight with Kelsea working her way into the audience and letting her fans take the mic to sing parts of the song. It was one of several moments where she looked genuinely overwhelmed at the reaction she was getting and at one point in the show she admitted that she was nervous that no one was going to turn up for the show.
During Dibs, Kelsea soaked up the adoration of the audience as they drowned her out by singing the song so loudly. She worked the stage covering every inch and ensuring that she performed to every single person in the venue. An acoustic section of the set was book-ended with cover version mash-ups starting with Little Big Town’s Girl Crush and Keith Urban’s Blue Ain’t Your Colour and ending with a pop melody that featured James Bay’s Let It Go, Justin Bieber’s Sorry and OneRepublic’s Apologize. In the middle of that she played new song I Hate Love Songs, which is a refreshing change to the sickly sweet love songs that dominate the air waves.
I Hate Love Songs wasn’t the only new song Kelsea performed last night. Roses was a punchy addition to the set that got a fantastic reception from the crowd, the reflective High School was relatable and We Were Like had a summer vibe with all the makings of a hit.
Following a storming rendition of XO, which is Kelsea’s first official single in the UK, she left the stage and re-emerged in the middle of the audience for an acoustic version of First Time. It was a spine-tingling moment, the kind you remember long after a gig has finished. That was followed by Kelsea’s debut hit Love Me Like You Mean It, which was a fitting end to a triumphant night.
The only complaint of the evening, and this is nothing that Kelsea had control over, is that for the first half of the set the sound levels meant that the drums drowned out Kelsea’s vocals. She kept taking her in-ear monitor out, suggesting that she wasn’t unaware of the sound issues. Still she carried on like a pro and the issue appeared to be rectified by the second half of the show.
Kelsea rocked Under the Bridge last night and now she’s tested the waters here in the UK, I expect we’re going to see a lot more of her once the release of her second album arrives later this year. With a warm stage presence, an engaging personality and a set list full of great songs, Kelsea showed the UK why she’s one of the biggest new artists in Country music. I expect that she’ll be announced as one of the main stage artists for next year’s C2C and I have my fingers crossed that my hunch is right.
Set list: 1. Yeah Boy 2. Looking At Stars 3. Square Pegs 4. Dibs 5. Stilettos 6. Roses 7. High School 8. Sirens 9. We Were Like 10. Girl Crush / Blue Ain’t Your Colour 11. I Hate Love Songs 12. Let It Go / Sorry / Apologize 13. Peter Pan 14. XO 15. First Time 16. Love Me Like You Mean It Performance Date: Thursday 11th May 2017