Lauren Alaina first came to many country fans’ attention when she reached the final of American Idol back in 2011, wowing the judges and fans alike with her powerhouse vocals. She released her latest album, Road Less Travelled, in 2017, with the title track going to number one, and also topped the chart duetting with Kane Brown on What Ifs. After making her UK debut at C2C back in 2016, this month she’s returned to this side of the pond for her first headlining tour, culminating in headlining this year’s Nashville Meets London festival in Canary Wharf.
Following an introduction from Baylen Leonard and a short burst of Whitney Houston and Shania Twain – which she’d return to later in the show – Alaina arrived on stage to huge cheers from the crowd, accompanied by her four-piece band. She kicked off her set with History, which she released back in 2015. Right from the off it was clear we were in for a heavy, rock-influenced set, with Alaina swaggering about the stage as she jammed with her bands, as well as waving to fans and reaching for their hands. Her vocals sounded incredibly full and she also showed off some impressive tricks towards the end of the song.
Throughout her set Alaina mixed tracks from Road Less Traveled and her debut album Wildflower. She also threw in a couple of covers, including mashing up a stomping, fast-paced version of her early hit Georgia Peaches with the Guns ‘N’ Roses classic Paradise City, which . However the highlight had to be her jam-packed medley of songs performed by female artists, including everything from Man! I Feel Like A Woman and I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me) to Umbrella and Single Ladies, via Britney Spears, Reba McEntire and the Dixie Chicks. She closed the number with Carrie Underwood’s Last Name, hitting some huge notes at the end, and created a fantastic tribute to the women who’ve come before her in this industry.
One thing which surprised me about Alaina’s performance was that she wasn’t afraid to switch her songs up. She put a classic rock spin on tracks like the heartfelt Doin’ Fine, emphasising the storytelling and personal nature of the song, and the fun Ladies In The 90s which was jam-packed with references and had the audience singing and dancing along. added in a piano part and twangy guitars to her version of What Ifs, her chart-topping duet with old friend Kane Brown. It’s quite unusual to see artists – particularly female artists – do this and I liked that she had the confidence to take it on.
However, the thing which really stood out was how fantastic Alaina’s voice really is. She showed off the serious belt she has throughout the set and was consistently hitting some enormous, but also highlighted her vocal smoothness and control in the funky, laid-back Tupelo, which she made look completely effortless. On record she sounds great, but performing live she is absolutely something else and definitely has the vocal chops to hold her own with any other country artists.
I also liked that Alaina wasn’t afraid to showcase different sides of her personality on stage. She looked as comfortable acting flirtatious with a fan she pulled from the audience to sing Next Boyfriend to as she did talking about her childhood, her experience touring the UK and the issues she’s faced in her personal life in recent years. It made her really easy to warm to and I found her whole performance incredibly entertaining.
Alaina closed her set by slowing things down with Three, which opened with a distorted intro before moving into a gentle keyboard melody as she stood behind the microphone to perform the song. I thought it really showed off the richness and clarity in her voice and she gave the lyrics a ton of conviction. It was a very powerful and moving moment and I have to admit I was welling up a little by the end. She then followed that with her first number one song, Road Less Traveled, after delivering an impassioned speech about how she wrote the song in response to negative comments she received online when she was on American Idol. It was an empowering and fiery performance, with Alaina encouraging the crowd to sing and clap along throughout (not that they needed it!) and lighting up Canada Square Park with their phones as she let them sing the last lines. It was clear she was blown away by the audience’s reaction and judging by their response, the feeling was mutual.
Overall I really enjoyed Alaina’s performance. She’s established herself as one of the rising female stars in country music and I thought she did a great job closing Nashville Meets London. Her brilliant vocals were on point throughout, she did a brilliant job of keeping the crowd’s energy up and commanding the stage, and it was nice to see her change her songs up and show a side to her that we don’t necessarily get to hear on her records. As she left the stage she thanked the crowd and promised she’d be back, and personally I can’t wait to see her over here again. I just hope we don’t have to wait another three years!
Set list: 1. History 2. Queen Of Hearts 3. Georgia Peaches/Paradise City (Guns ‘N’ Roses cover) 4. Doin’ Fine 5. Next Boyfriend 6. Tupelo 7. What Ifs 8. Man! I Feel Like A Woman / I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me) / Wide Open Spaces / Fancy / …Baby One More Time / Umbrella / Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It) / Last Name (Shania Twain / Whitney Houston / Dixie Chicks / Reba McEntire / Britney Spears / Rihanna / Beyonce / Carrie Underwood cover) 9. Ladies In The 90s 10. Three 11. Road Less Traveled Performance date: 27th July 2019