The Cadillac Three have become one of the most popular country-rock acts in the UK over recent years. They’ve worked hard to gradually build an audience on this side of the pond and it’s paid off with their first headline tour last year. Ahead of arena dates with Black Stone Cherry this December, the trio stopped off at London’s The Big Red Bar to play an intimate, sold-out show as part of their Summer Vacation European tour.
The band took to the stage at 9.15 PM to huge cheers from the crowd, and launched into I’m Southern from their debut album Tennessee Mojo. It’s a heavy, hard-rocking song with pounding drums and got the audience clapping and singing along from the off. Frontman Jaren Johnston roared the song into life at the beginning and the gravel and drawl in his voice came through really strongly. By the end he was holding his guitar aloft above the audience and they were whooping and hollering their approval.
That set the tone for the rest of the evening, with plenty of singalong moments such as Bury Me In My Boots (which opened with an a capella section), the fast-paced Slide and Tennesse Mojo with its rock and roll groove. The band also showed off their ability as showmen, with Jaren and Kelby Ray throwing themselves into the performance. They moved about the stage, tossed their hair as they jammed together and encouraged the crowd to join in (not that they needed much help!). It certainly kept the energy up in the room and it was clear that they were all having a whale of a time.
However, the group showed that they’re not just about uptempo rocky numbers. There were plenty of other influences on show, from the slinky groove of Take Me To The River to the soulful, bluesy feel of Long Hair Don’t Care, where Jaren showed off some impressive vocal runs. They also premiered some new songs from their upcoming fourth album, which has just been completed. Of these, the standout for me was Sinner, with its swampy bassline and Southern rock feel. It was nice to see a different side to them and showed they’re definitely not one-trick ponies.
One thing which particularly strikes me about The Cadillac Three is that as well as having great chemistry when they play together, they’re fantastic musicians in their own right. All three members got a chance to show off their skills during the set, with drummer Neil Mason keeping up a steady, pulsing pace throughout as well as showing off plenty of flourishes. Meanwhile, multi-instrumentalist Kelby got one of the loudest cheers of the night for his atmospheric finale on Whiskey Soaked Redemption, which ran from fuzzy guitars to a downbeat tone before picking up again.
However, the standout performer of the trio for me was Jaren. I was completely wowed by his ability as a vocalist, whether he was hitting some impressive high notes on new song Talking ‘Bout Whiskey, showing off the power and control in his voice on the smooth, sultry Take Me To The Bottom or bringing out the emotion in the laid-back White Lightning. He also oozed confidence and swagger on stage, including leaping off boxes and bending over backwards, and his guitar-playing throughout was excellent, particularly on Soundtrack To A Six Pack where his fingers flew up and down the neck of the instrument.
After a driving rendition of fan favourite Cadillacin’ and the grungy Tennessee, the set finished on The South. This is rapidly becoming a tradition at Cadillac Three shows and for me it summed up their performance brilliantly. The crowd knew every word and were singing at full volume, whilst the heavy bassline, steady groove and evocative lyrics gave a great sense of pride and defience. Jaren ended the song by raising his fists above his head and spraying beer into the air, whilst Neil stood on his drum kit in triumph. It was a brilliant finish to a great show and left me – and the rest of the audience – wanting more.
Overall The Cadillac Three put on a fun performance with plenty of energy that showed why they’re one of the best live acts around on the country scene. Whilst they perhaps didn’t play as many of their best-known hits as I expected – the likes of Drunk Like You, Dang If We Didn’t and Party Like You were all conspicuous by their absence – it was nice to hear some different songs from them and highlighted just how versatile they are. It’s clear that they love performing in the UK and that the feeling is mutual, and I for one can’t wait until they come back in December (and for the new record). Go get your tickets now!
Set list: 1. I’m Southern 2. Down To The River 3. Bury Me In My Boots 4. Slide 5. Soundtrack To A Six Pack 6. Long Hair Don’t Care 7. Tennessee Mojo 8. Hank And Jesus 9. Take Me To The Bottom 10. Sinner 11. Talking ‘Bout Whiskey 12. Peace Love And Dixie 13. I’m Rocking 14. Whiskey Soaked Redemption 15. Cadillacin’ 16. Tennessee 17. White Lightning 18. The South Performance date: 2nd July 2018