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Live Nation teams with RAH to launch Highways fest

Live Nation and the Royal Albert Hall have teamed up to launch new Country and Americana festival, Highways.

The London venue has confirmed acts such as Kip Moore, Morgan Wade, Jackson Dean and Stephen Wilson Jr for the inaugural festival on Saturday 20 May 2023.

Performances will be held in the main auditorium in addition to curated showcases speckled across adorning rooms.

“I am thrilled to bring to life this incredible festival alongside our partners at the Royal Albert Hall,” says Live Nation’s VP touring, Anna Sophie-Mertens. “It is every artist’s dream to play this legendary venue; and delivering such an unforgettable occasion for the Country and Americana community has been a longstanding dream of mine.”

Tickets go on sale this Friday (9 December), with further musical performances and offerings at Highways to be announced soon.

“We’re particularly pleased to be able to build on the long-running history of country music at the Hall in this way – as these genres continue to grow from strength to strength in the UK”

“We’re delighted to be building a completely new Country and Americana event with our long-standing partners at Live Nation,” adds Matthew Todd, head of programming and engagement at the Royal Albert Hall. “Our 152-year old auditorium will provide a backdrop unlike anywhere else for some brilliant acts, and we’re particularly pleased to be able to build on the long-running history of country music at the Hall in this way – as these genres continue to grow from strength to strength in the UK.”

The Hall has a long history of promoting country music and Americana in the UK, including shows by Johnny Cash, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, John Denver, Kacey Musgraves and the UK debut of Creedence Clearwater Revival in 1970.

Other notable moments of American history at the venue have included addresses by five Presidents from Taft to Clinton, UK v US basketball tournaments during the war, The Beatles attending a Bob Dylan concert, Pink Floyd opening for Jimi Hendrix, and appearances by the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Jay Z, and Diana Ross.

Elsewhere, the Country to Country (C2C) festival has added Morgan Evans to its main stage lineup for 2023. The Australian singer/songwriter joins previously announced headliners Zac Brown Band, Thomas Rhett and Lady A on the bill.

C2C’s 10-year celebration will take place at The O2 in London, Dublin’s 3Arena and Glasgow’s OVO Hydro from 10-12 March.

 


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UK gears up for Country to Country festival return

The Country to Country (C2C) festival is set to make its grand return to the UK and Ireland this weekend for the first time since 2019.

Luke Combs, Darius Rucker and Miranda Lambert headline the event, Europe’s biggest country music festival, which will be held at The O2 in London, 3Arena in Dublin and Glasgow’s OVO Hydro from 11-13 March.

C2C’s was one of the first music events to fall victim to the pandemic in March 2020, while last year’s festival was also cancelled for the same reason.

“We’re really excited about C2C, it’s one of the favourite events of the year for our staff,” The O2’s GM and VP Steve Sayer tells IQ. “It’s built over many years now to be the premier country music event in the UK and outside the US, frankly. And having lost it just before Covid was breaking way back in March 2020, and then not being able to get it on last year, to get that one away this year is a major plus for everybody.”

Promoted by SJM Concerts, AEG Presents and DF Concerts in association with the Country Music Association, the event launched in London in 2013 and has showcased country stars such as Keith Urban, Lady Antebellum, Carrie Underwood, Dierks Bentley, Kacey Musgraves and Chris Stapleton, as well as emerging talent.

In addition to its Scotland and Ireland legs, the festival brand has expanded to other European countries over the years, with additional dates in Sweden and Norway in 2015, and the Netherlands, Germany and Australia in 2019.

“Some of the onsales for later this year have just started to get back to normal levels”

The O2 will host more than 100 performances over the weekend, with C2C ticket holders able to access The Town Square, The Big Entrance, BBC Radio 2 Stage (at Indigo at The O2), Country Music Week Hub and The Saloon (All Bar One), The Icon Stage and The Garden Stage, while all visitors to the venue can access the free stages.

“Fortunately, the event will happen,” adds Sayer. “We’ve had to pivot slightly, but all of the stages are going to be in place and all the programming outside of the arena is in place. We’ve got three near sell-out crowds and it’s going to be a brilliant atmosphere.”

Sayer also reports that no-show rates – a hot topic for venues since reopening last year – were improving at the arena.

“We’re still seeing some no shows, more than we would see in a non-Covid year, but that’s definitely coming back round,” he says. “Fans are coming back in and they’re really up for a big night. They have pent up energy that they want to release. We’re still seeing quite strong numbers on F&B sales, stronger than pre-pandemic and that seems to be continuing for now.

“You will still see some fans wearing face coverings, but I think the majority feel much more comfortable and much safer now. We’re definitely seeing consumer confidence starting to return. Some of the onsales for later this year have just started to get back to normal levels, so it’s starting to return to normality.”

 


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