Every so often an artist seems to capture the moment and after ‘mad-May’ with a diary full of gigs, it was Morgan Wade’s turn to step into the limelight. Not only did she set social media alight with fans clamouring for more, but her performances revealed an artist clearly set on the road for super-stardom. Words and photos by Philippa Myall-Chance (photosbyphilippa.com)
Having wowed the hearts of London at C2C Festival in March, when she took to the main stage alongside Priscilla Block and Tiera as part of Introducing Nashville, we all knew a headline show from Morgan Wade was going to be special – and boy, did she deliver.
The show at The Garage, in London on Tuesday, marked the midway point of her UK tour; having already performed to crowds in Belfast, the Isle of Wight Festival and in the capital the previous night. An extra date was added in London when the first show sold out within minutes. The tour continues to Glasgow and Manchester later this week, culminating in a supporting slot to The Eagles at BST Hyde Park on Sunday alongside Cam, Little Big Town, Robert Plant & Alison Krauss, The Wandering Hearts & Patrick Droney.
Despite the tube strikes, The Garage was full to capacity, with fans making epic journeys to be there. In true country family spirit, social media groups were full of offers of lifts and car shares to ensure those who wanted to be there could. “I was warned that I could be playing to an empty venue”, Wade admitted “but look at you all!” Many had returned for night two in London, which didn’t escape her notice as she greeted familiar faces in the front row.
Morgan Wade is accompanied on her UK tour by Nashville-based singer/songwriter, Leah Blevins, who opened the show with an acoustic set of songs from her debut album, First Time Feelings. Her stunning voice oozed grace and elegance and alone on stage with a guitar in her hand, her vintage vibe had the audience enchanted. Leah is one to watch for sure.
The headline set opened with the title-track of Morgan Wade’s acclaimed debut solo album, Reckless, with a full band ready to rival a heavy metal concert and an audience ready to rock it. That’s the thing with Wade, she won’t let herself be constrained to the expectation of one genre – country, americana, pop and rock, she has it all. What remains constant is the emotion, grit and authenticity that is poured into every word and the audience felt it.
Reckless was followed by Last Cigarette and Don’t Cry, before a cover of Miley Cyrus’ Bad Karma broke the run of album tracks, which she truly made her own. This set up a change in pace for some of the most emotional songs on the album. Wade laying herself bare with tales of failed relationships in Mend was balanced by the optimism of love that lasts a lifetime in When The Dust All Settles and the deep-rooted physical desire of Take Me Away.
The vulnerability Wade shares about her story cranks it up a notch with the conflicting emotions of loss and longing in Matches & Metaphors, loneliness in Carry Me Home and her past battles with addiction and her journey to overcome it in Other Side.
The second of Wade’s covers came via Elvis Presley’s Suspicious Minds, which she recorded for the Deluxe version of Reckless released earlier this year. Hearing the song performed live with such raw emotion really brought meaning of the lyrics to the surface which I think can be overlooked in such iconic songs, and Wade has a way of making you listen to every word. Her storytelling continued with Northern Air, wearing her heart on her sleeve about a lover who’s moved north and the desire to escape in Run to “bury these memories that been holding us down”.
The crowd were treated to a mash up of The Outfield’s Your Love and Rick Springfield’s Jessie’s Girl which gave the band an opportunity to put in some guitar solos, hair flicks and got everyone clapping along. You can definitely feel the rock vibes, even if Wade tainted their reputation with tales of socks washed in hotel sinks with lavender shampoo! This energy flowed through into an incredible emotional and passionate performance of The Night, a stand out moment with a powerful message to tell.
A change in pace came as the band left the stage and Wade treated the crowd to two new songs Phantom Feelings and Stay, both of which showing even more depth and maturity in both her songwriting and vocals to give a taste of what’s to come next. A stripped back version of Met You followed, which was simply breathtaking with Wade once again connecting the audience with every lyric and every emotion.
The band returned for a magical performance of Wade’s hit single, Wilder Days, packed with guitar solos, picks thrown out for lucky fans and even an incredible moment where her lead guitarist held out his guitar for the front row to play. What a way to close the night!
It goes without saying that the audience sang along to every word and were captivated by both her music and her presence on stage, showing off her tattoos in a white Rolling Stones t-shirt and jeans that she had bought earlier that day; in fact the jeans were so new that one of the band members had to remove a label for her live on stage!
The star’s authenticity is not just in her lyrics but in her interactions with the audience and tonight she seemed more relaxed and clearly fed off the energy of the audience. She owned her place in the spotlight and we saw a true performer, born to tell her story to the world.
A fan asked how her mum was, after sharing on social media on Monday that she was undergoing surgery for a double mastectomy. She opened up about the history of breast and ovarian cancer in her family that led to her mum taking preventative action: “I’m waiting for my results” she admitted “but I encourage you all to get checked out”. Whilst a serious subject for a Tuesday night in Islington, her openness about what’s going on in her personal life and the impact it has on her is something that runs through every line of every song on Reckless. It’s her authenticity and ability to take her audience on her journey with her, connecting them with raw emotion that makes her so special.
On Monday she revealed that as soon as she’s back in the States, work starts on her second album and promised to be back this side of the pond soon. From what we heard tonight of the new tracks, backed by her new signing to Sony Music Nashville, it’s going to be every bit as amazing as Reckless and I guarantee she’ll be selling out much bigger venues next time around.
But if you can’t wait until then, and can beg, borrow or steal a ticket for one of the remaining three shows, do it! You won’t be disappointed.
Keep up-to-date with Morgan Wade at www.morganwademusic.com
June 23 – Oran Mor, Glasgow
June 24 – Manchester Academy
June 26 – BST Hyde Park