When Sean McConnell came on stage without fanfare – clad in denim and holding his guitar, testing his microphone before beginning – the audience weren’t prepared for the powerful performance he was about to unleash.
Opening with the title track of his most recent album ‘Secondhand Smoke’ (which gained the rare distinction of 10/10 when it was reviewed here earlier in the year), his fantastic storytelling and powerful vocals went on to win over some new fans during the course of his opening set for country-rock powerhouse Ashley McBryde.
His pleasingly lengthy eight song set contained four songs from ‘Secondhand Smoke’. He got the harmonica out for the fantastic ‘Shakey Bridges’ and did some impressive vocal gymnastics near the end of ‘Rest My Head’ (which we learned interestingly, was a song he originally wrote for a film about Billy the Kid, only for it to be rejected, so he reworked it and kept it for himself). But, there were some nice surprises thrown in too. Much to the delight of any fan of his back catalogue, a highlight was hearing him play a deep cut, ‘Old Brown Shoes’ (a song he said he hadn’t played for a while but selected to play that night after headline act McBryde had earlier told him it was one of her favourites), from his 2012 album ‘Midland’. ‘Save Our Soul’ added a nice dose or rock ‘n’ roll to the proceedings, and with ‘Love Me Anyway’ he easily hit all intended emotional targets.
Humbly grateful for the opportunity to play to the audience, he finished his set with ‘Greetings from Niagara Falls’, a song about the loneliness of touring life away from your loved ones: “Austin was a sold out show / Now I’m buzzing like a sixth street glows / Stumbling down the avenue, a million miles from you.” Introducing it, he aptly dedicated it to his wife of 14 years and his eight year old daughter. The song ended with happiness as he sang of letting them know he’d be home soon: “I’m gonna ring that mission bell / Let you know I’m coming home.” While his joy was evident, there was a sadness knowing that our time together was now over. At least until the next sold out show.