The below review was originally written in May 2019, but while we awaited photo approval Maren Morris went on to take her Girl tour back to the US over the summer and through to the end of the year with a mixture of festival appearances and headline shows including Nashville’s massive CMA Fest and a date at New York’s famous Radio City Music Hall.
She posed for Playboy Magazine before falling pregnant and subsequently giving birth to gorgeous little Hayes Andrew Hurd just this last month – March 2020. With such a whirlwind year behind her and the world currently in lock-down, it felt like the right time to finally have this review and accompanying photos reach the world.
In the world of Country Music, Maren Morris is riding high. Her massive debut record, 2016’s Hero, hit number 1 on the US Country charts while climbing to number 5 on the overall Billboard chart, smashing Gold certification and spawning a host of pop hook-laden Country tunes which remain the mainstay of Country radio. A huge feat for the former Nashville-based songwriter who had previously penned hits for the likes of Tim McGraw and Kelly Clarkson as well as numerous songs for the hit ABC television show Nashville.
Relentless touring across the US, Canada and across the pond in the UK saw Morris’ stock gaining as she took on the British Country Music festival C2C Festival at London’s famous O2 Arena as well as rocking iconic venues such as the Shepherd’s Bush Empire. Last year (2018) saw her return to London to play a tiny acoustic show at Omeara, the songwriter in her relishing the opportunity to play away from her usual pop production.
Not content with being pigeon-holed into the Country-pop box, Morris contributed vocals to Russian-German record producer Zedd’s song The Middle, from his upcoming third album Orbit. The song was a massive hit, going 3x platinum in the US and propelling Morris further into the mainstream. And all of that has led us to London’s historic Royal Albert Hall tonight, for the final show on the European leg of Morris’ Girl tour.
This tour’s production upped a notch sees Morris slowly elevated through and appear at the top of a set of on-stage stairs adorned with a white Gibson Les Paul guitar for the slow-drive title song of her sophomore release before she sheds the guitar and dives down the illuminated steps to the edge of the stage. “I don’t even have the words to describe my emotions right now” she declares to continued screams from the crowd, all of whom in the Royal Albert Hall’s rather formal seated arena had risen to their feet at the star’s first appearance.
Debut album single 80s Mercedes follows The Feels, keeping the London crowd firmly on their feet and singing loudly along, the Country-pop banger a fan favourite. A Song For Everything takes us on Morris’ own journey through time via favourite artists and songs with Bruce Springsteen, Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream and Coldplay name-checked, perhaps indicating Texas-native’s true aspirations.
Soulful Girl cut Common has Morris stunning the 5,000+ crowd to stillness with her enchanting vocal, the live rendition not missing a beat without Brandi Carlile’s contributions. To Hell & Back is described as the tale of Morris’ dark days between a break-up, through to the release of her debut album along with meeting and falling in love with husband and fellow songwriter Ryan Hurd. “We’re the same kind of crazy” she says taking up an acoustic guitar for the more traditional Country tune, the sound of pedal steel being produced by Bennett Lewis’ electric guitar.
Support act RaeLynn is re-introduced for Girl tune All My Favourite People, the upbeat Country-rock tune getting the crowd clapping along before Morris describes how I Could Use A Love Song made it to number 1 after a slow creep of 42 weeks, tonight’s stripped-back rendition accompanied beautifully by Matt Butler on cello.
Ex-One Direction man Niall Horan is requested to be made to feel at home as he walks onto stage for a rendition of his song Seeing Blind on which Morris contributed vocals for Horan’s debut solo record, the harmonies made all the more special bouncing off the arches of the historic Kensington hall, accompanied solely by Horan’s acoustic guitar and the crowd going understandably wild. We’re treated to more soul and R&B infused pop-Country from Girl next by way of Gold Love and Flavor before a rendition of the Morris-penned song Second Wind, written for Kelly Clarkson, is blended with Beyoncé hit Halo.
An all-female string quartet is brought out on stage next for slow Girl song Good Woman, a pair of on-stage mirror balls lighting up the Royal Albert Hall as I’ve never seen before, the string section remaining on stage to contribute to soulful Great Ones, Hero song Once and The Bones. R&B-infused RSVP is up next, a slow grind taking over the Royal Albert Hall crowd. “Alright London, let’s pick it up a bit” Morris calls before the band break into hit US Country song Rich, the crowd singing along in earnest and the 29-year-old handing vocal duties over to her audience for an entire chorus.
The final song of the main set is introduced with a story of how Morris played the C2C Festival at London’s O2 complex in 2016, just a couple of songs on a small stage. “Here in London is the first time I’ve gotten to witness people singing my words back to me” she says, gushing about the importance of touring in the U.K. before diving into first single My Church.
A brief departure from the stage and Morris is back for Girl cut Shade, more R&B-infused Country demonstrate her massive vocals while the tune progresses to Country-rock with massive guitars for the broad appeal. “Alright London, I’m going to miss you so much” she says. “This has been honestly such a bucket-list night for me” she continues before introducing Zedd song The Middle as one that changed her life last year.
Morris commands just as much as she is humbled but tonight’s achievement. It’s not overplayed and the sentiment feels truly genuine, the stream of fans singing favourite tunes as they file down Exhibition Road true reciprocation. Tonight is also a testament to just how huge Country music is in the U.K. right now. And not only that, but how much U.S. stars desire to “break” Europe via the U.K. and how hallowed some of our halls over here are.
Tonight’s full to the brim Royal Albert Hall also tells us how massive female-driven Country music is. And with C2C bigger and better year on year and now CMT’s Next Women Of Country also making its U.K. debut this year, the future is bright in the U.K. for Country music.
Live review and photos of Maren Morris @ Royal Albert Hall by Kalpesh Patel on 31st May 2019.
Kalpesh has more music photography up on his flickr stream here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/somethingforkate