Well what can I say about this event. 'Special' comes to mind.
Organised by Simon Birds of The UK Country Showcase and Friends this was a first of what I hope is many of these lovely intimate affairs held at Kiveton Park and Wales Village Hall, Walesmoor Avenue, Kiveton Park, S26 5RF Sheffield.
The line-up of 5 times BCMA nominee Kezia Gill, 2 times BCMA nominee and West End star Gareth Nugent and award winning duo Tennessee Twin was a combination made in heaven.
Photo credited to Ian Morrall
We arrived early to help set up, but practically everything was done by the time we got there. All but the sound check. Being privvy to that I knew we were in for a real treat. The sound was superb. Our sound engineer for the evening was Lloyd Hughes, Kezia's husband.
There were a good few people in attendance considering this was a first event. Set in the style of a songwriters round but having the feel of a personal show in your living room because of the use of occasional tables with a selection of different lamps brought by the artists themselves, our host Simon introduced the evening and his artists in turn. Simon has a very warm and bubbly personality which shone through all evening. His passion for the UK country scene and its artists is obvious.
First to perform was Kezia Gill. She opened with 'House of Cards'. I love the way Kezia writes her songs. It's like she is just having a conversation with you.
Relative newcomer Gareth Nugent was new to the songwriters round and admitted this was his first ever. He didn't disappoint though. He has such a powerful vocal with such a range. He really is a first class performer.
We first met Victoria and Geoff who are Tennessee Twin in April when they recorded an acoustic session for us. These guys are exceptional. The emotion they bring with their songs is undeniable. Their story telling is second to none.
We were treated to 3 rounds and then we had a 20 minute break. Just enough time to get a drink and have a chat with members of the audience. It was absolutely great that UK country singer Donna Marie, who had appeared on Simon's radio show earlier in the day had stuck around for this fabulous show. So nice to have her in the audience on a rare night off. There were also people who had travelled from Dublin and Zante in the audience, either dumping their suitcases in the kitchen and coming or coming straight from the airport before they even went home.
The second half of the evening turned out to be even more entertaining than the first half. During the break Simon had gone round asking people to write some questions down on a piece of paper so we had a round of songs then we had a round of questions with each artist answering one. I loved this. It bought that something extra to make the evening even more special. Then we had a round with a song and then a question to each artist and I think the final round was just a song. I say 'just' but those songs were incredibly emotional for all the artists to perform and were probably my favourite songs of the night. You literally could have heard a pin drop all night. The audience was fixated and drawn to each of the artists in turn.
Having been in sound check we knew what was coming next but the audience had no idea and were stunned when all the artists sang 'Wagon Wheel' together. Not one of my favourite songs unless Kezia, Gareth, Victoria and Geoff are singing it then I could listen to it all night.
This still wasn't the best song of the evening though, they saved that one till last. Starting with an acapella chorus they sang 'Country Roads'. With shouts from the audience of 'wow' they then went into the song properly. It was the perfect ending to the perfect night. Simon sang too and at the end got up and asked the audience to join in the singing for one more chorus which of course we all obliged. The hairs are standing up on the back of my neck as I am remembering that song as I type this review. So absolutely stunning. It was so worth the hour and a half drive in the rain to get there.
The audience were all chattering excitedly as they left. We filmed this event and will be uploading in sections once edited. The audio will also be used in some future podcasts. Who knows, you may even hear them on Simons radio show on Redroad fm.
We hope this is the first of many of UNPLUGGED & UNLEASHED.
Photo Credit - Lloyd Hughes