Having avidly watched 3 and a half seasons of the TV series Nashville, I was more than curious to see and hear one of its stars, Clare Bowen, perform in a live setting, and as her own persona rather than as her often angst ridden TV persona Scarlett O’Connor. The crowd was not made up of your usual Corner Hotel patrons and was clearly there primarily as fans of the hit show.
Opening was Clare’s younger brother Tim Bowen, a singer songwriter who is hitting his straps, having also had recent success with one of his songs being featured on the latest and apparently final, season of Nashville. He had a commanding voice and the predominantly female crowd welcomed him warmly. He revealed that he was currently fighting a rare blood cancer and that this was his first gig in 6 months since his diagnosis, really giving it his all with his hybrid alt/nu country tinged style. It may have not been quite the Grand Ole Opry but he clearly embraced the stage as if it was.
Clare hit the stage with full band, her right hand man, lead guitarist and fiancé, Nashville singer songwriter Brandon Robert Young in tow. There was a lot of love in the room and the set started off with Bowen clearly catering to the Nashville fans having toured the USA last year with her ensemble cast mates performing hits from the official soundtrack. It was interesting to see her transformation as the show evolved, she was able to shake out of being a Nashville cast member and into a performer in her own right. Bowen began with a clear Tennessee twang but as the night wore on her Australian accent was back – broad and strong. The feeling of the night was about embracing opportunities and believing in your dreams and this came through in the songs. Performed by anyone else, this could have seemed like a schmaltzy American style affirmation but coming from Bowen it was 100% authentic.
A cancer survivor now hoping to donate bone marrow to her “big little brother”, she really has grabbed life by the horns and not let go. The band was tight, the songs starting off in a slow burn with Young ably filling the shoes of his TV counterpart Gunnar Scott on smoky duets Fade Into You, Longer, If I didn’t know better and of course the one all those ladies who must have called in sick to netball that night were waiting for, Black Roses – Scarlett’s signature tune. I must say that Bowen’s own songs that were not part of the show were very engaging and enjoyable, especially the song relating to the relationship she has with brother Tim and their respective health battles, Love Steps In. Tim joined her on stage for From Here On Out, Magnolia Tree and Learn to Love Again which injected a new energy into the somewhat subdued set ramping up to the big closer A Life That’s Good; another signature tune from the series.
Although it was evident that this lineup was finding their feet with this being the first show of the Australian tour, they clearly enjoyed and embraced the challenge. This was not the ‘Nashville Lite’ tour I was expecting. It was good wholesome and positive entertainment that was exactly what the people came for. Tim Bowen was definitely a pleasant surprise for me and I look forward to following his progress as a songwriter. Having not heard him before, I assumed it was going to be a case of put the sibling on the bill to give him a leg up and build a following but this guy is definitely one to watch. For someone who is yet to release her debut album, Clare Bowen certainly has a great foundation to build on here. She has the heart and the determination and above all takes nothing for granted.