Having previously only toured the UK as part of the Nashville TV show cast, a sold out Town Hall proved Charles Esten AKA Deacon Claybourne has succeeded in breaking away from his TV alter ego to be warmly welcomed as a performer in his own right. Not that Rayna James other half was completely cast aside, with Esten performing several songs from Nashville throughout his set and also referencing his six seasons on the show with anecdotes and other assorted memories.
A gifted songwriter and performer, for the most part the show was simply Esten with only his guitar or the grand piano for company albeit he was joined on stage by local support band The Adelaides to add their guitars and vocals for a handful of songs that included show favourites such as the heartfelt ‘Sanctuary’ and a joyous ‘A Life That’s Good’. But impressive as these were, it was when Esten was sat alone at the piano that the show scaled its peak; a scorching cover of ‘Thunder Road’ was the perfect song to highlight his incredibly powerful voice and was given more clarity by the incredible acoustics of the venue. Another cover version that sounds unlikely yet somehow worked, the mash-up of ‘Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys’ and ‘Norwegian Wood’ (yes, really), proved as intriguing and satisfying as it sounds.
With songs that ranged from the sentimental ‘Half Way Home’ and the laugh-a-long ‘ I Love You, Beer’, Esten showed himself to be a versatile performer. The stripped back approach gave the performance an added intimacy and it felt like he was simply singing some songs for a bunch of friends and you got the feeling he would have played all night had the Town Hall curfew not had to be respected. Here’s hoping he makes it back to Birmingham in the near future where he can be assured of a very warm welcome.