Since his last visit to the UK for C2C: Country to Country 2018, Australian singer-songwriter Morgan Evans has had something of a whirlwind 18 months. As well as releasing his debut album, Things That We Drink To, his song Kiss Somebody topped the Billboard Country Airplay charts in the US and he’s been out on tour with artists including Rascal Flatts and Dan + Shay. Now he’s back in the UK as part of his first ever World Tour, with dates in Glasgow, Liverpool and London, as well as playing at The Long Road festival.
Arriving on stage shortly before 9pm to huge cheers from the sold-out crowd, Evans opened his performance with Young Again, which he later mixed with Shut Up And Dance. The lively, twangy number had the audience clapping and singing along from the off and a great joyous, celebratory feel that set the tone for the rest of the energy. Evans showed off a surprising soulfulness and belt in his voice, almost yelling in places, and had great energy as he played his guitar at a breakneck pace. He ended the song by asking the crowd to sing solo – not that they needed much encouragement! – and that set the template for the next hour.
Throughout his set Evans combined songs from his album with a few choice covers, the standout of these being a mash-up of his midtempo, hopeful ballad Everything Changes with a soaring rendition of Tom Petty’s classic Free Fallin’ and the Beatles’ Hey Jude. I also really liked his take on Hooked, a song he wrote which was originally cut by Dylan Scott, and which had a rockier feel compared to the original cut.
One thing which particularly stood out to me during Evans’ set was the sheer range of styles and influences on his music, whether that was on the poppy, summery I Do with its smooth vocals, or rockier tracks like American, which featured a bluesy guitar solo before switching into a quietly powerful take on I Won’t Back Down and then Keith Urban’s Somebody Like You. It was good to see different sides of him and I’m intrigued to see him explore more of the different sides of his sound in the future.
I also felt Evans has really improved on his stage presence, moving around freely and getting up close and personal with the audience throughout, as well as regularly breaking off to tell stories about songwriting and life on the road He also frequently encouraging the crowd to join in, particularly on fan favourites like Kiss Somebody, with its simple but vivid lyrics and layered melody, and the playful, cheeky Day Drunk which saw Evans beatboxing in the intro before mixing in retro classics like We Will Rock You and This Is How We Do It.
For me the standout track of the set was Things That We Drink To, the title track from Evans’ debut album. It started out with a strong 90s rock influence before Evans broke off to speak very movingly about his late manager who inspired the song, bringing a bittersweet feeling to the lyrics. He went for some huge notes towards the end and the whole thing was incredibly moving. I also really liked Dance With Me, which Evans wrote for his now-wife Kelsea Ballerini, which had a gentle melody and an Ed Sheeran vibe about it. Both songs really showed Evans’ strengths with their heartfelt delivery and big choruses, and drew huge cheers from the audience.
For his encore, Evans performed We Dream, which kicked off with a shuffling rhythm before moving into a singalong chorus as his vocals built throughout. He followed that with a second, bluegrass-inspired version of Young Again, where he brought out guitar tech Keith to perform an absolutely killer solo. For me it was the perfect way to bookend the show and ended the whole thing on a high, with the crowd response being absolutely raucous as they whooped and hollered at the end of the song.
Overall I came away feeling really impressed with how far Morgan Evans has come since the last time I saw him play in London. His stage presence has grown immensely, he comes across as really warm and engaging on stage, and he delivered a jam-packed, entertaining performance that showed his skill as a musician as well as some strong vocals and his versatility as an artist. It’s great to see him take another step towards becoming a huge star and I’m hoping we won’t have to wait another 18 months until he’s back over here wowing even bigger audiences.
Set list: 1. Young Again/Shut Up And Dance (Walk The Moon cover) 2. I Do 3. Everything Changes/Free Fallin’ (Tom Petty cover)/Hey Jude (Beatles cover) 4. Hooked (made famous by Dylan Scott) 5. Dance With Me 6. Things That We Drink To 7. American/I Won’t Back Down (Tom Petty cover)/Somebody Like You (Keith Urban cover) 8. Kiss Somebody 9. Day Drunk/Young Wild & Free (Snoop Dogg and Bruno Mars cover)/We Will Rock You (Queen cover)/This Is How We Do It (Montell Jordan cover) 10. We Dream 11. Young Again Performance date: 6th September 2019