Following their brilliantly textured acoustic set earlier, Hillbilly Vegas hit the stage again with what can only be described as an evening sworn for the best. The Troubadour, now clouted with the band’s UK fanbase and eager-eyed journalists back for more, is not only the perfect location for the Hillbilly Vegas London debut but a venue notorious for the faces who have passed through its doors for the last (almost) seventy years.
Hillbilly Vegas – The Troubadour – 24 November 2022
Words: Monty Sewell
Photography: Antonio Giannattasio
Returning for the evening, we have Steve Harris on vocals, Stacy Thornburg on guitar, John Reed on guitar and Troy Hillinger on drums. After an afternoon of getting to know the guys over a pint, it genuinely feels like we’re watching our mates up there. They are the nicest guys in the industry, with a humbling attitude towards their success and chart-topping hits.
After support act Matt Pearce & The Mutiny give us a fantastic groundwork set, Hillbilly Vegas clamber up into their main event seats and welcome us to the show that launches their new album, The Great Southern Hustle.
It may be a bold move to start a set with Tulsa Time, but these Southern Country Rockers pull it off with no loss of ease and style. But then again, Hillbilly Vegas aren’t quite like anything you’ve seen before. With an abundance of good-time stories layering their hard strutting twang, the guys just hit that sweet spot.
The Oklahoma natives bring their suave to the streets of London with hits from the taster EP like High Time For A Good Time, Shake It Like A Hillbilly and Losin To Win. New tracks from the album ease into the set sensationally, such as Let’s Get Together, and Long Way Back before Harris graces us with the intro story to Can’t Go Home. A true testament to the rock’ n’ roll way of life and the inspirational nit-bits that it throws us, the song is undoubtedly a good crowd pleaser. Feet tap, and hips sway.
Good Hearted Woman ends with a Movin’ On Up snippet, much to the delight of the punters, though no smiles are lost throughout. It’s a delightfully diverse set that feels far too short, even with its eighteen-track count.
There’s a seasoned feel that grabs you with its professionality but also easy playfulness. Hillbilly Vegas has obviously known and been playing with each other for a long time, but their genuine enjoyment of their set keeps things real and in return, the air of mutual delight never wanes.
More foot shuffling and interluding noodles ensue. Other notable songs, such as Helluva Night and Something Crazy, are simply brilliant. The crowd are edging forwards with each new start, mostly to get more of Harris’ brilliant storytelling, which gives each song a homely feel and every word that bit more meaning.
This is not just a gig. It’s an intimate experience that makes it a show. Grab a drink, pull up a seat and be properly entertained by a band who really knows what they’re doing. Though I would recommend standing, for you will be dancing from around the second line of the first song.
They finish up the set, and it’s bittersweet for the audience, who are sad to no longer hear the sweet live tones of Hillbilly Vegas but are now also brimming with the prospect of catching a chat with any member of the band. The quartet come off the stage and make their way around the crowd, thanking every congratulation and praise alike. Having managed to snag them for a few hours earlier, I hold off until the room begins to filter out.
“Thank you so much for coming,” the band throw out, grinning from ear to ear. “It’s been such an honour.” As I said, they are the nicest guys in the industry.
With the night far from over, we stick around to lap up more quality Hillbilly Vegas time, garnishing the evening with more stories and anecdotes from the guys. Soon would be far too long a time to wait for their return to the UK, but patience must be taken as they head back to the states until (fingers crossed) next summer.
Having spent most of the day hanging out with and listening to these rockers, I can only say this: Hillbilly Vegas are in a genuine class of their own. The warmth they bring is matched only by their bountiful talents that can only be heading towards the big time. A damn good event with a damn good show.
I speak for us all when I say Hillbilly Vegas, you are most welcome here anytime. Get yourself the new album and give it a good listen. I promise you won’t be disappointed.