Headliner: Michael Ray
Support Acts: Willie Jones
Venue: Night and Day Cafe, Manchester.
Date: October 25th 2019.
Review rate: 9/10
Finding your own place in the music industry is about creating a unique sound or style that cant be found. Its a difficult task, a task that Willie Jones has clearly worked hard on achieving. When I saw the set up of the stage with a mix table I was sceptical as to how his set would turn out – and even more sceptical about how he could be an opener for Michael Ray. It soon became clear exactly how he fit into the show which was simply just by being himself. In a similar way to Holloway Road who I’ve mentioned in a number of posts before, along with other artists like Sam Hunt and Florida Georgia Line, Willie is ignoring the typical boundaries or stereotypes of country music in his own way. By creating their own look or sound such artists are reminding us that country music is about far more than just a cowboy hat, boots or trucks – country music is about roots, relationships and real life stories.
The two songs that I remember the most from his set show just how diverse his repertoire is. Lead Me Back Home is a beautiful acoustic track with an even more beautiful story about some of Willies greatest inspirations in his career; his mother as well as his home. Bachelorettes on Broadway is that one track that is needed at every single party, not just on Broadway but all over the world. Its a catchy upbeat tune which shows the audience just how much fun a Willie Jones show can be. Overall, at first I was a little unsure of what to expect from Willie as an artist plus his set up left me questioning how he could fit into the bill. However, he soon quashed all my doubts – regardless of his style, sound or differences compared to other artists he is an amazing musician who creates a unique sound that works perfectly for him. I’d happily support any future shows he plays over here!
Review rate: 10/10
Michael Ray played his first UK sets back in March at popular country music festival, C2C; Country to Country. If you look back on previous posts you will see that I reviewed C2C in three parts (one, two and three), Michael is featured in a couple of the posts. The singer-songwriter was featured on the spotlight stage, pop-up stages and even headlined one of the after parties. One of the C2C highlights for me was Michael Ray, especially when I got to meet him after one of his sets. The cheers from the audiences after each track seemed to get even louder showing Michael that he had a fanbase here that he needed to return for. Luckily for his fans Michael had no intentions of making them wait long and soon announced a UK headlining tour.
Firstly, its important to mention the venue; Night and Day Cafe is a small venue especially considering the attention Michael got during C2C; he could have chosen a bigger venue but didn’t. There’s a reason why, Michael mentioned during the set and in interviews prior to his tour that this was his opportunity to get to know the fans while they got to know the story behind his songs a little more too. This is also the same reason the tour was an acoustic set up focusing on his vocals, stories and the guitars. The intention was to make fans feel as though they were in a living-room, to let them know they could ask questions so Ray could work on building a special relationship with his fans here in the UK. For me it was clear that he achieved his goal, his interaction with fans throughout the set was amazing and the crowd seemed to enjoy every moment of it. Review, Concerts & Live shows, Music & Memories, Manchester, US country singer, Chase Rice I will cover more on this area later as something very special happened which made the relationship between one of Michael’s songs that even more special.
His setlist gave the audience an insight into different times in his personal life and career. Kiss You In The Morning was the first single Michael released which peeked at number 10 in the US country charts. It was the song that really started his story as a country music artist so by opening with this track he took the audience on a journey back to where it all began. It set the mood for the whole show in my opinion plus the stories he told captivated the audience from start to finish. Personally speaking I feel that I found out more about him during than short set than I could ever find on the internet.
We didn’t just learn the stories behind the songs, we also learned the type of person Micheal was. Dancing Forever and Her World or Mine are two songs that cover the importance of his family, the things they went through as well as the impact it had on him both as an artist and a person. During his set he mentioned that Dancing Forever was a song that he wrote with his sister in mind but that it had taken on a whole new meaning since his relationship with Carly had began. To me this song is about more than just watching them dance, its about watching the ones you love being happy and achieving their goals – its a beautiful track. The music video for Her World or Mine was released just before his show, until I saw the video and heard him speak about the story behind it I assumed it was a break-up song but its more than that. The song is about the impact his parents divorce had on him growing up, about a bad relationship his sister had and also about the loss of his grandmother. The way I look at that song has been forever changed by hearing the real story behind it. In addition to that, the emotion behind the performance shown the audience how important this track was to Michael. Check out the official video to Her World Or Mine below!
Another topic Michael’s music focuses on is relationships; this was seen during his set with songs like Girl From Spring Break, I’m Gonna Miss You, Get To You and the last track of the evening; a fan favourite – One That Got Away. One thing I noticed is that if you listen to the lyrics they could all be used as a response to each other. Michael may not have intended it in to be this way but it really does make the story of his songs flow together nicely and also shows just how talented he is.
As mentioned previously something very special happened to me during Rays set, I had reached out the afternoon of the show asking him to play Drink One For Me, a track which has come to remind me of my little brother. I remember thinking as he was speaking that he couldn’t possibly be speaking about me, but he was – he outlined the message and I raised my hand declaring it was me who had sent the message. He asked my name then went on to not only dedicated the song to my brother but to raise a glass to him after the song finished. The whole experience taught me something about Michael as an artist, he truly cares about his fans being able to find a connection to his music. Moreover, this is a memory that will stick with me throughout my life just because of how much consideration he had for my story. If I had to rank this for my overall experience at a concert it would be in my top three of all time. If you’re reading this Michael, thank you for what you did for me that night – thank you for sharing my story, for understanding me and for remembering my brother with me in such a beautiful way. What made it even more beautiful is that the next trackhe played Dancing Forever, is one that reminds me of all of my siblings. Its safe to say I was emotional.
He ended the set with three songs which in my opinion are clear fan favourites; Her World or Mine, Think a Little Less and One That Got Away. By doing this he left myself as well as the rest of the audience craving more. I for one can not wait for him to return, I will be supporting him at every UK tour he does from now on until he sells out the O2 (I believe its only a matter of time). If your looking for an artist who’s songs tell a truthful story then you really should check Michael out; his social links are above.