LIVE: Courtney Marie Andrews – Band on the Wall, Manchester

I have to be completely honest with anyone reading this review from the start. I would have described myself as a casual fan of country/folk singer Courtney Marie Andrews, fellow editor Fran had been telling me to listen to her for years and I had given her last two albums a spin, but no more than that. So I headed over to Band on the Wall straight after work on a Friday night with the knowledge I should enjoy her headline show, but with few expectations besides that.

I walked into Band on the Wall for the first time since their upgrade last year to my own confusion over whether it was like I remembered it was before or not while support Robert Ellis was already performing tracks from his upcoming album. Just him and a guitar the mood was appreciative in the crowd already, Robert apologising for ’playing so many sad songs’, before letting us know he had even more still to come. I enjoyed his performance on the guitar a little more than the moments he played from a keyboard instead, the closing out and out country record feeling to me like his most comfortable place in the music.

Onto the artist the crowd that had really filled out by then were waiting for and bang on 8pm Courtney Marie Andrews appeared on stage with little fanfare. The crowd barely realised she was there before they began to cheer. Opening with the opener and title track of her 2022 album Loose Future, I was immediately amazed at how clear and engaging her voice was live. On record she has a warmth and almost classic rock way of producing the vocals and hearing her sing in person was genuinely incredible to witness. Her band of musicians really came together by the third song ‘You Do What You Want’ and an effortlessness to all of their performances made the show so easy to enjoy.

After a few newer tracks to open, it was ‘How Quickly Your Heart Mends’ from 2016’s Honest Life that took her vocal to places I haven’t heard from her before. The power that Courtney has when singing a more ‘straightforward’ country record like this was stunning to hear. The crowd was fully on her side too, in one of the few times that she did speak directly to the crowd between songs she cracked jokes about the ‘rat tail in her hair’ before singing a new song alone. There’s a real emotive quality to her performing with just her guitar and the new music felt more delicate than the expansive sound of Loose Future.

We then had a sequence of songs that the audience were totally there for, cheers rippling from the front as she began singing highlights like ‘Satellite’. It was the main set closing three songs that left the biggest impact on me, ‘Old Flowers’ going down incredibly well as she took her place at the Piano for the last section. It was here that Courtney and her band truly shone as musicians,her drummer, bassist and guitarist really pushing the sound on ‘Carnival Dream’ to psychedelic highs. The band truly losing themselves in this song.

Main set closer ‘Me & Jerry’ showed yet another different side of Courtney Marie Andrews as a performer and artist, at times it felt like I was watching Carole King. She manages to capture this classic feel and deep rooted soul in her performance that feels completely natural. It was a truly incredible thing to be watching and admiring, her talent at its peak in these closing moments.

It’s hard to overstate the difference in my engagement with Courtney’s music at the start and the end of that hour of music. By the time she emerged for her encore to perform ‘If I Told’ from Old Flowers I was among like minded fans, no longer just a casual. Bringing support Robert Ellis back for a sing along of ‘To Love Somebody’ by Bee Gees closed the night with a warm and welcoming tone, I can’t imagine anyone left the room without a smile on their face.

It has been a long time since I have fallen so hard in love with an artist over the course of their live show like this. I was tempted to bullshit my way through a review as if I was an in the know fan, but instead I was queuing at the merch stall to buy Loose Future on vinyl to relive it all again knowing that going from casual listener to fan in the space of an hour was worth shouting about. A tremendous performance from a true talent.

Words by Sam Atkins

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