LeAnn Rimes Fights The Moonlight At The O2

Jackson, Mississippi-born and Garland, Texas-raised LeAnn Rimes was simply created by God’s Work to perform on worldwide stages, bringing Country Music to the masses long before it was “cool to be Country ”. Since her breakout period in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the likes of Taylor Swift, Kacey Musgraves, Carrie Underwood and Miranda Lambert have gone on to dominate the genre both within and outside of the US in recent years, taking further steps both to extend the appeal of Country music as well as each personally stepping beyond the confines of the single genre.

LeAnn Rimes @ The O2

LeAnn Rimes @ The O2 (Kalpesh Patel)
LeAnn Rimes @ The O2 (Kalpesh Patel)

Rimes shot to fame in 1996 aged just 13 with her hit rendition of Bill Mack’s 1958 classic Country tune Blue and quickly followed it up with the Diane Warren-penned global breakthrough How Do I Live. Flitting between genres, as might be standard fare today, she continued to trailblaze, releasing global number 1 smash Can’t Fight The Moonlight in 2000 and appearing in the film Coyote Ugly for which the song was written, again by Warren.

Her collaborations over the years have stretched far and wide, appearing alongside everyone from Elton John when just 14 years old, to the late Taylor Hawkins on his third and final Coattail Riders LP. So appearing for a one-off show tonight at London’s O2 Arena, her first show in the UK for six years, the audience is expectant.

But opening up the music at tonight’s show is Scottish artist Nina Nesbitt, her fourth LP Mountain Music incoming this September. Sporting a champagne-coloured gilet, the 29-year-old is clearly enamoured to be here tonight. “We are very, very, very excited to be here” she gushes, “this is my first time playing The O2” she continues.

Her short set is kicked off with US folk-inspired forthcoming album cut On The Run, the delicate acoustic guitar-driven tune echoing surreally around the massive East London arena before more from the new LP is offered by way of Pages. Rousing Anger continues the new material.

  • Nina Nesbitt @ The O2
  • Nina Nesbitt @ The O2
  • Nina Nesbitt @ The O2
  • Nina Nesbitt @ The O2
  • Nina Nesbitt @ The O2
  • Nina Nesbitt @ The O2
  • Nina Nesbitt @ The O2
  • Nina Nesbitt @ The O2
  • Nina Nesbitt @ The O2
  • Nina Nesbitt @ The O2
  • Nina Nesbitt @ The O2
  • Nina Nesbitt @ The O2

Appetites are whet as Rimes’ (prerecorded) voice booms from the PA, a spoken-word verse offering insight into her most recent LP, gifting “our songs” to her audience, the singer then appearing behind a grand piano for an outing of 2016 LP Remnants’ title track, hushing the vast arena to silence. Her band take up positions as a slow funk builds for Twisted Angel single Life Goes On, Rimes moving about barefoot, making the most of the vast O2 stage.

“I cannot believe that it has been over six years since we played in the UK, but I’m so happy to be here” she gushes, her infectious smile, which remains throughout the evening, expressing sincerity. “We haven’t put a show on for four and half months, so we’re just easing back in with The O2” she quips.

“We’re going to revisit over 30 years of music, so we thought we’d start at the beginning” she says as the Country twang of Blue rings out across The O2 for the first time in the decade since Rimes played the stage at the inaugural C2C: Country to Country festival back in 2013. But this is really the only flavour of ‘Country’ we get tonight, the singer instead flitting between pop, funk and soul for the most part. That explains the distinct lack of Stetsons (other Cowboy hat brands available!) being donned by the audience tonight.

Soaring Awakening from 2022’s God’s Work is one of many tunes that demonstrate just why LeAnn Rimes has been chosen as one of the newest judge-coaches on The Voice UK, her voice simply stunning.

“I signed my record deal when I was 11, which is wild to say at 41” she shares, going into how she has spent the last few years reclaiming her lost innocence. “We’re getting into therapy everyone!” she continues, taking a seat on a stool at the edge of the stage before piano-led ballad Innocent is aired.

“I’m gonna take you guys on a little Coyote Ugly ride for a moment” the LA-based singer offers to audience cheers, detailing her introduction to Hollywood at the age of 17 but also her love of the Diane Warren-written piano ballad Please Remember then attached to the film, which is aired next. “I never in a million years thought that this soundtrack and this music would have the life that it has, so thank you guys for keeping this music alive, because I know it’s not everybody’s jam”, an interesting insight offered as the singer looks out to a not-at-capacity arena, rows of seats hanging empty towards the rear of the venue. The tempo is upped as more from the 2000-released film’s soundtrack is offered by way of The Right Kind Of Wrong.

Rimes confesses her adoration of Washington state-hailing Brandi Carlile and just how a cover of Carlile’s The Story made it onto her 2016 record Remnants, the storming tune providing a true rock-along moment while also once again showcasing Rimes’ stunning vocals. Long Live Love brings in funk and soul elements, backing vocals and percussion lifting the tune, “I like a song with attitude” she remarks.

LeAnn Rimes @ The O2

LeAnn Rimes @ The O2 (Kalpesh Patel)
LeAnn Rimes @ The O2 (Kalpesh Patel)

“I’ve done an enormous amount of duets with some incredible artists along the way. My first duet was with Sir Elton John” she shares of the collaboration when she was just 14. Delicate Borrowed, which was “re-imagined” with Stevie Nicks is offered first before that Elton collab. Written In The Stars. But it is Last Thing On My Mind from Ronan Keating’s third solo LP that gets the biggest cheer of the night so far as the former Boyzone frontman appears on stage to perform the duet.

“You’re not gonna want to sit down, I promise” the 41-year-old calls out as those on their feet start to sit down, the opening crunch of biggest hit Can’t Fight The Moonlight ringing out across the arena to muted cheers. “I expected a big scream from you” she calls out disappointedly. A second attempt at the song is met with a warmer response as a funk-laden rendition of the 2000-released pop-rock anthem is delivered. Tonight’s extended take makes room for band intros and a medley featuring excerpts from Chaka Khan’s I’m Every Woman, 1999 and Sexy MF from Prince as well as Aretha Franklin’s 1967 classic Respect.

Spaceship, from 2022’s God’s Work, slows things down just as they’re truly got going, but her adoration of British star David Gray and him joining her behind the piano for a one-two punch of duets by way of Snow In Vegas and White Ladder classic This Year’s Love, certainly lifts the mood once more. “It’s traditional when we do this song that you put your phones up in the air and you make it like the milky way” Gray demands of the audience as his famed slow ballad is aired, the first time as a duet.

“I want everyone to walk away remembering who we are” Rimes requests. “We forget that we are these beautiful creations of this universe that are so unique” she continues, introducing latest record title track God’s Work (audience participation as her “choir” mandatory) before closing her main set out with the song she will always be known for, soulful pop-ballad How Do I Live, tonight delivered acoustically, perhaps stripping the energy out of the expectant crowd in this delivery. An encore comprised solely of a solo piano-led rendition of Rita Wilson’s There Will Be A Better Day with its outgoing lyrics “Hallelujah, hallelujah, there will be your better day” repeated slowly seem to drag out an anticlimax.

Tonight was a showcase in pure vocal chops from a star that was thrust into the spotlight from an age that most would consider too young. And while LeAnn Rimes and her band delivered an incredible performance, with the star smiling sincerely throughout and hitting all of those tough notes, the lacklustre response from a 3/4 (or less)-capacity fully-seated O2 Arena sank the atmosphere as did, perhaps, a mis-judged set. Tonight would have been lit had the show taken place at an at-capacity Hammersmith Apollo and ended on a rousing beat.

  • LeAnn Rimes @ The O2
  • LeAnn Rimes @ The O2
  • LeAnn Rimes @ The O2
  • LeAnn Rimes @ The O2
  • LeAnn Rimes @ The O2
  • LeAnn Rimes @ The O2
  • LeAnn Rimes @ The O2
  • LeAnn Rimes @ The O2
  • LeAnn Rimes @ The O2
  • LeAnn Rimes @ The O2
  • LeAnn Rimes @ The O2
  • LeAnn Rimes @ The O2
  • LeAnn Rimes @ The O2
  • LeAnn Rimes @ The O2
  • LeAnn Rimes @ The O2
  • LeAnn Rimes @ The O2
  • LeAnn Rimes @ The O2
  • LeAnn Rimes @ The O2
  • LeAnn Rimes @ The O2
  • LeAnn Rimes @ The O2
  • LeAnn Rimes @ The O2
  • LeAnn Rimes @ The O2

LeAnn Rimes plays a handful of US shows over June and July before returning to the UK, appearing alongside Sir Tom Jones and will.i.am as one of the new judges and vocal coaches on The Voice UK.

Nina Nesbitt will headline London’s Camden Assembly to showcase her latest LP on 23rd May before taking on Heartland Festival across the last weekend in June.

Live review & photography of LeAnn Rimes & Nina Nesbitt at The O2, London on 8th May 2024 by Kalpesh Patel.

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