Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Casey McQuillen Shines in the Birmingham Night

Casey McQuillen has been busy. Since appearing in season 13 of American Idol in 2014, the American singer-songwriter has been touring as support to a dizzying list of stars; James Morrison, Beverley Knight, Marti Pellow, Newton Faulkner, Stephen Kellogg, Kate Voegele, Tyler Hilton, Eric Hutchinson, Clark Beckham, David Ryan Harris and Nick Howard

In fact, a quick poll of the audience at Birmingham’s Sunflower Lounge showed that almost everyone present had bought tickets because they had seen Casey in a support role at another show, such is her power to make new friends and influence people.

Casey’s music is a blend of rock, pop, country, blues and a few other bits and pieces thrown in for good measure and the result is a sound that has a broad appeal, a classy level of production and a poignancy in the lyrics which is balanced against her upbeat, cheerful, energetic delivery. Whether her music is to your personal taste or not, you can’t help but be won over by the twinkle in her eye as she pauses between songs to tell the personal stories that led to their creation. Songs of heartbreak, pain and loss, but above all, songs of survival, resilience and finding new ways to define and enjoy life. Perhaps this natural gift for finding the star in the darkest of skies led to her anti-bullying concert series The “You Matter” Tour which reached over 40,000 US students.

Reality TV fans might recognise Casey’s song ‘How Love Begins’ from the show ‘Temptation Island’ which Casey describes as a trashier version of ‘Love Island’. Whilst it’s the song that’s played at the moment contestants decide to cheat on their partners, Casey takes it in good humour and recognises that, after ten years of hard work, when that moment of fame comes, just go with it.

Support in Birmingham came from Irish musician Nathan O’Regan who shared stories of his personal life and the struggles of maturity with a full house, which is perhaps unusual for a support act. As a support act herself, Casey has played in some of the biggest venues across the UK and maybe now she is aiming to return the favour to the musicians who have supported her on her own headline tour.

The evening seemed to pass at a leisurely pace despite Casey managing to squeeze in a total of 13 songs and an audience selfie, such is the ease which which she engages the audience and weaves her music together, flowing between acoustic guitar, electric guitar and simply vocals, allowing her minimalist two piece band to do all the background work for her, giving her work a variety as well as an emotional depth which is definitely winning over new fans. 

From the opening ‘Dying’ to the closing ‘In & Out’, the setlist told a life story, not necessarily in chronological order but certainly as a set of experiences that are part of Casey’s rich tapestry and which touched a few nerves with the fans too. The only cover version was Etta James’ 1960 release ‘At Last’, a song which Casey says she used to perform as a wedding singer, going full circle from essentially parodying the song as a cliché to coming to a new understanding of the lyrics, representing a long journey, a struggle which finally pays off, comes to fruition and gives all of that hard work and waiting a new meaning. That, in itself, seems to be the perfect definition of Casey McQuillen’s musical journey, and a hint that there is much more yet to come.

Peter Freeth



Images: Peter Freeth

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