Ever since Zach Bryan soared to the forefront of modern alt-country scene, following a series of viral online snippets of him performing with nothing more than an acoustic guitar, critics and fans have been eagerly hunting for the next artist to follow in his footsteps.
Many have tipped Sam Barber to step into these shoes - and after his enchanting performance at BST Hyde Park on Saturday (July 8), it's hard to disagree with them.
Armed with a guitar and his trusty USA ball-cap, Barber stepped onto the Rainbow Stage with the demeanour of someone who was unsure as to whether they belonged in front of such an expansive audience. However, as soon as he began his set, the crowd ensured he was left with no illusions as to his right to be on Bruce Springsteen's coveted bill, which also featured The Chicks, Brittney Spencer and more.
His stripped-back, lo-fi sound was translated perfectly into his live set, with Barber conveying a sense of wisdom and nostalgia through his recent single, ‘Ghost Town’, during which he looks at the town he grew up in with a sense of wistful, sepia-tinged nostalgia.
Sam Barber's cover of Dani and Lizzy's ‘Dancing in the Sky’ offered the up-and-coming artist the opportunity to showcase his strong, charismatic vocals, which carry a degree of casual, off-hand gravitas that feels reminiscent of Parker McCollum's distinctive sound.
‘As Time Passes’ is another intricate ballad that Barber does justice on the Hyde Park stage, while he shifts through the gears on the uplifting stand-out, ‘Drowning’.
Ahead of his viral hit, ‘Straight and Narrow’, Barber humbly shares how unexpected its success has been, “I posted it eight or nine months ago, and it did nothing. Then, out of nowhere, people just started loving it”. What makes this all the more remarkable, as Barber outlines, is the fact that ‘Straight and Narrow’ was the first song he ever wrote.
Excitingly, Barber gave the BST Hyde Park attendees a taste of new music, with the Missouri singer-songwriter debuting an unreleased love-song, ‘A Million Hours’, towards the end of his set.
Although Sam Barber's blueprint follows a similarly DIY path to that of Zach Bryan and Tanner Usrey, there are already signs that he is keen to carve out his own lane in the modern alt-country space.
Sam Barber - Setlist
Take from his live performance at BST Hyde Park 2023, London, England - Saturday July 8, 2023:
For more on BST Hyde Park 2023, see below: