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Review: James Johnston @ Venue 114 (Sunshine Coast)

On the last night of his 'Raised Like That' tour, James Johnston reminded us all that we don't need much, just a song with a fiddle.

Neon lights gleamed as the stars aligned at Sunshine Coast's Venue 144 (26 November). The crowd buzzed as they queued up for pizzas, merch and drinks, keen to be a part of the unforgettable night of country music that lay ahead.

First to enter the stage with an irresistible blend of sass and power was the ever-amazing Bella Mackenzie. The moment she graced the spotlight, a collective hush descended upon the audience, surrendering to the enchanting fusion of her commanding vocals and the soulful twang of her guitar.

The crowd swayed in unison to the resonance of her potent ballads and belted out the lyrics with fervour throughout her entire set.

Treating the audience to a beloved cover of AC/DC's 'It's A Long Way To The Top', Bella had everyone primed and pumped for the following acts to grace the stage.

Bella Mackenzie - image © KealiJoan Studios

Next was the harmonious force of country music duo Zac & George, who illuminated the venue with their enchanting synergy and magnetic stage presence. The chemistry between the two was undeniable, and it was no shock to learn they've been best friends since they were 12.

Whether crooning poignant ballads or infusing the space with the lively twang of an uptempo tune, and even a cover of The Script's 'Breakeven', the duo's performance was a captivating journey through the diverse landscapes of the country genre.

Their live show wasn't just a musical performance; it was a shared experience that transported the audience into the heart of their storytelling.

With tales of love, homesickness, and life, set to the backdrop of finely crafted melodies, Zac & George delivered a live performance that left an indelible mark.

Zac & George - image © KealiJoan Studios

With no hesitation, headliner James Johnston lit up the stage alongside an ensemble of musical maestros, each contributing their unique flair to the electrifying performance.

The insanely energetic bassist, Steele, set the rhythm ablaze with infectious enthusiasm, while much-loved guitarist Dave skilfully wielded his strings, adding layers of melody to the sonic tapestry.

Incredible drummer Troy anchored the performance with precision and power, driving the beats that resonated through the venue. Adding a touch of twang and authenticity, fiddle player Rachel weaved her magic into the musical landscape, infusing the air with the soul-stirring resonance of her strings.

From the first chords of Johnston's breakthrough hit song 'Raised Like That', a sonic journey through the heart of country music unfolded.

With each strum of the guitar and every heartfelt lyric, James painted an emotive landscape that resonated deeply with the audience.

James Johnston - image © KealiJoan Studios

He surprised the audience by bringing his good friends Zac & George onstage. As they adorned him with a party hat, the crowd eagerly joined in a spontaneous rendition of 'Happy Birthday' to celebrate James in style.

The camaraderie continued as they seamlessly transitioned into their collaborative hit 'Some Things Never Change', which was filled with energy and shared laughs throughout the entire song.

Adding a dash of mystery, James playfully teased the audience with an unreleased gem, a song co-written with country legend Lee Kernaghan. The crowd hung on every note, anticipating the day they could officially add it to their playlists.

To elevate the excitement, James then invited opener Bella Mackenzie to the stage, creating a magical duet with his song 'Same Songs'. The energy soared as they dove into a medley of crowd favourites, sparking a friendly sing-along rivalry among the captivated audience.

James Johnston - image © KealiJoan Studios

In a poignant moment, James underscored the significance of family through his touching song 'Seeing You Soon'. The heartfelt lyrics delve into the challenges of touring and the profound longing for family.

What added a uniquely emotional dimension was the inclusion of his son's vocals, a soul-stirring element that never fails to tug at the heartstrings of everyone in the audience.

The grand finale, an encore featuring 'My People', turned the venue into a pulsating sea of energy, with the 2022 CMC anthem bringing the house down. This electric ending left everyone buzzing with the contagious energy that defined the entire show.

James Johnston - image © KealiJoan Studios

Beyond the music, the night served as a profound reminder of country music's timeless appeal.

A genre capable of uniting generations, James' performance was a testament to the enduring magic of country tunes, creating an atmosphere where everyone, regardless of age, could revel in the joyous celebration of live music.

The night wasn't just a concert; it was a jubilant testament to the universal charm of country music.

More photos from the show.

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