When Bob Harris himself stops by to introduce an artist, you know you’re in for something special. And so it was with UK country star Callaghan. She wrote her first song at the age of 14 before moving to the US in 2010, and released her debut album, Life In Full Colour, in 2011. After spending four years in Nashville, she recently recorded a series of three EPs in LA and is now back on this side of the pond as part of her latest UK tour.
Callaghan opened her set with Surrender, a delicate piano ballad which worked beautifully with her sweet, breathy vocals. Her voice sounded wonderfully clear and she also hit some seriously impressive high notes! She followed that with the rocky, midtempo Solid Ground which brought out the richer tones in her voice.
The set list mainly drew on Callaghan’s three recent EPs, with songs covering a wide range of styles and influences including the cheerful Crazy Beautiful Life, the sparse and bluesy Before Time Runs Out and the shimmering, driving beat of The Other Side. She also performed several cover versions, including an absolutely spine-tingling spin on Annie’s Song by John Denver which allowed her voice to soar.
Throughout her performance Callaghan frequently broke off to tell stories about the inspiration behind each track, such as the grandmother of a family she lived with when she first moved to the US and whose tale of her first romance inspired the dreamy, bittersweet When You Loved Me. On stage she was very chatty and warm and her enthusiasm was infectious as she encouraged the crowd to sing and clap along on songs such as the upbeat Better Together and her light, breezy cover of Ben E King’s classic Stand By Me.
For me the standout song of the evening was If You Miss Me When I’m Gone. Callaghan told the crowd that the song was inspired by a dream she had about talking to a family member who had passed away, and her subdued yet powerful performance was incredibly moving. She really brought out the emotion of the lyrics and the crowd reacted with thunderous applause.
After closing her set with the jaunty, toe-tapping Best Year, for her encore Callaghan performed All Through The Night, a melodic, almost reverential song with a smooth vocal. She followed that with the poppy, laid-back We Don’t Have To Change The World, where she jammed with her bandmates and finished with a rattling flourish of a guitar solo. The two final songs summed up both sides of her performance perfectly and showed she can turn her hand to anything.
Overall I was very pleasantly surprised by Callaghan’s set. She has an absolutely gorgeous voice and I really liked the mix of pop, rock, country and blues in her music, as well as being impressed with her versatility as a guitarist and piano player. My only complaint is that perhaps there was one too many slower songs, but they were so beautiful that I didn’t mind too much. She’s a real talent and I’m hoping she comes back to the UK soon.
Set list: 1. Surrender 2. Solid Ground 3. Crazy Beautiful Life 4. Stand By Me (Ben E King cover) 5. When You Loved Me 6. The Other Side 7. Before Time Runs Out 8. Skin On Skin 9. Annie’s Song (John Denver cover) 10. Better Together 11. If You Miss Me When I’m Gone 12. The End Of The World 13. I Will Love For You/All You Need Is Love (Beatles cover) 14. Best Year 15. All Through The Night 16. We Don’t Have To Change The World Performance date: 26th April 2018