Review / Strong voice with little commitment to country

“Clare Bowen”, Canberra Theatre, July 5. Reviewed by GRAHAM McDONALD.

Clare Bowen concert… Bowen has a strong and assured voice, which certainly suits the material, but just without any great sense of commitment to country music.

CLARE Bowen is a young Australia actor who plays one of the main characters in the American TV series Nashville, a series based around the lives of a number of country music performers in Nashville, which is now in its fifth season.

Bowen grew up around Wollongong, has a creative arts degree from the University of Wollongong, had a few stage roles in Sydney and some minor appearances on Australian TV before moving to the US and being cast in Nashville. As the series is based around the country music industry there are regular musical performances in the show and a couple of CDs released for each year of production. Bowen sings on a several tracks on each release, and this has been the total of her recorded output to date. It is a bit odd going to a concert where the star has not actually released anything other than as a character on a TV show, but she does have a solo CD soon to be released.

The songs she performed in this tour were a mix of songs from the TV series, some of her own from her forthcoming album and a few familiar country songs. The audience (almost entirely dedicated Nashville fans) joyously welcomed the familiar material and seemed equally as enthusiastic about Bowen’s newer and less familiar songs. The band was tight yet relaxed and includes Bowen’s husband Brandon Robert Young (always with three names, it seems) who contributes acoustic guitar and high tenor harmonies.

A little surprisingly the overall sound is not particularly country, certainly not in the same way as the TV soundtrack songs are. It is more of a country-tinged pop and presented in a slightly overly theatrical manner. Bowen has a strong and assured voice, which certainly suits the material, but just without any great sense of commitment to country music.

It seems that country music has an interesting demographic appeal, at least in Canberra. The almost full Canberra Theatre was around two-thirds youngish women, a proportion much the same for the audience at last year’s Keith Urban/Carrie Underwood concert. One can only wonder if the promoters of such tours have actually twigged to this.

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