Chase Rice @Newcastle O2 Academy 2, January 14 2020

It’s 9pm in Newcastle. And the Chase is on.

Chiselled features, trademark cap, voice of an angel and a daring take on cargo pants. Yes, cargo pants.

The Chase in question? Chase Rice. 

The former college football linebacker and reality television heartthrob turned country hit maker is on Tyneside for the first time.

And Rice is making the most of his red hot Newcastle debut.

If a canny co-write on Florida Georgia Line’s Cruise kickstarted his recording career, then live’s where it’s at for the 34-year-old.

He’s at home on the stage and the stage is his home.

At least it is now.

Ironically, Rice never meant to step outside the studio.

It was never his intention to hit the road.

And yet demand for his catchy country rock means he’s been bouncing from show to show for nigh on a decade.

Number one country album Ignite only served to increase the appetite for Southern fried Rice.

That breakout long player has sold in excess of 300,000 copies…and counting.

And if follow-up Lambs & Lions failed to hit those heady heights then it does boast the smash hit Eyes On You – a singalong favourite tonight.

Rice’s new record – The Album Part 1 – hits stores soon but one of the best songs of the night didn’t even make the cut.

How The City failed to make the final tracklisting for 2020’s comeback remains a mystery. Even Rice can’t explain it. But he can certainly sing it.

His voice is made for delivering classy country rock and sassy pop country. But there is a caveat.

Frustratingly, the main man’s natural power and volume is only audible in fits and starts.

In fact, Rice almost whispers along to some of his better-known tunes. 

And that David Coverdale-esque habit for pulling the mic away mid-note? It’s neither helpful nor necessary.

The fluctuating volume can’t even be blamed on a poor mix. It’s pin sharp from start to finish.

Rice’s band – who look like an Avenged Sevenfold tribute act and sound like Jonny Cash’s bastard sons – could easily dominate.

But they don’t. They do their job and do it well. Especially the bit where Rice asks for each member’s personal faves and a whacky jam session ensues.

Serenading 80-year-old Evelyn during Ride is hilarious.

Digging deep during the acoustic Carolina Can is genuinely moving.

And letting his band mates rock out while he steps off stage to press the flesh is refreshing to see.

Chase Rice? More like Chase Nice.

But not quite as nice as kooky support Madison Kozak.

With only an iPhone for company, the cute Canadian takes no time at all winning the hearts and minds of a capacity crowd.

First Last Name is a tear-jerking tour de force and there’s plenty more where that came from.

Songs of love and heartbreak – and a blast of Whitney Houston for good measure – cut through the Toon’s Tuesday blues.

And it feels more like Prozac than Kozak as a smiling Madison leaves her new fans in no doubt that a star has been born.

Images By Cody Cannon