Sean McConnell & Ashley Monroe @ Shepherds Bush Hall in London, UK
Review & Photography by: Guy Hurst
January is a compelling time for London’s more intimate music venues, as the winter season seems to be the time where artists really thrive on the experience on playing to small crowds compared to those typical festival audiences of 40,000, where some get all too familiar in playing and lose how to connect with fans. This couldn’t be more true to Ashley Monroe’s sold out performance at the Shepherds Bush Hall in London where the night was full of laughs, touching stories and exquisite music, not just from Ashley, but also from her support Sean McConnell. For those unaware, the Bush Hall is a hidden gem in London’s nightlife as the grand hall is bursting with unique character. The grandiose chandeliers, overwhelming décor and a deep red color scheme leaves you with a heightened unique experience and an evening to remember. The small venue of the Bush Hall really makes it the perfect spot for acoustic and country artists as they could have even unplugged all microphones and speakers, and the sound would have still been delightful for all attendees.
First up on stage was country singer-songwriter Sean McConnell. From Nashville, Sean brought every bit of soul with him from home when playing his recent releases Second Hand Smoke and Shaky Bridges not long from jumping up on stage. With a whopping 13 records under his belt with his next release on February 8th, you know that Sean has obviously been a musician for a long time with an extensive back catalog, and from his flawless performance, you could tell that he knows every song of his like the back of his hand. A really great moment from Sean was when he decided to perform one of his latest songs on the somewhat hidden grand piano at the back of the stage. His decision seemed almost impulsive as I wasn’t aware of him being well known for piano based hits, although this combination with his lyrical raw emotion worked to perfection.
Last but not least, the main event. Ashley Monroe. Given a rocky start with some technical issues from the crew, Ashley laughed them off and used that moment to bond with the audience before kicking things off. Playing solo on this tour, she really turned up the volume on each song to compensate for the packed out room. To the point where passers-by were even listening in from the outside. Starting with her huge hit and my personal favorite, Hands On You. Followed by Hard On a Heart and Mother’s Daughter, Ashley gave some deep feels about the meanings and the lyrical process of her songs as well as spontaneous thoughts and feelings about being away from home at that current moment in time. Mother’s Daughter really hit home bringing some tears to the audience which ended to applause to shake the foundations. Playing all of her other hits too, including Like A Rose, Ashley’s performance was uplifting and magical, as well as being musically flawless. She is the perfect artist to escape from when outside is cold and wet, as her music makes you feel nothing but warm inside.