by Courtenay Mercer, contributor.
9th November saw a Northern Ireland debut for American country star Thomas Rhett, who opened his European tour in Mandela Hall. Opening for the 26-year-old was his father, and legendary singer-songwriter Rhett Akins. Armed with an acoustic guitar, he warmed the crowd up with a mixture of his own songs, his self-penned songs for stars including Luke Bryan, Blake Shelton and Jason Aldean as well as classics from Hank Williams. A highlight of Akin’s performance was “Huntin’, Fishin’ and Loving everyday”, written by Akins for Luke Bryan, as well as Blake Shelton’s “Kiss my Country Ass”. The crowd loved this addition to the show, and he made for a charming start to his son’s debut.
Then the main show began, with Thomas opening one of his first European gigs with a few familiar favourites from his latest album “Tangled Up”. His intoxicating, velvet voice filling the room, the audience were engaged with the star from the start. Rhett’s energetic performance created a huge buzz amongst the crowd, especially during crowd favourites such as “Die a Happy Man”, and “Star of the Show”.
Rhett’s infusion of Country and Pop was impressive, jumping from his own, “Crash and Burn” to a version of DNCE’S “Cake by the Ocean”, then later Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk”, all with a country twist to them.
One of the highlights of the night was Rhett’s performance of Garth Brook’s classic and all-round Country anthem, “Friend’s in Low Places”. This most definitely was a special point of the evening, and you could see the gratefulness and surprise on Rhett’s face from the noise of a crowd of just 1,000.
An immense talent of the country scene, not to be missed again! Next time Rhett rolls into Northern Ireland, make sure you get there, and Keep ‘er Country!