The City of Stirling isn’t usually the first choice for open air entertainment in Scotland. Situated right between the thriving cultural hubs of Glasgow and Edinburgh, Stirling unfortunately doesn’t quite match the live music scene of it neighbours. Often overlooked by promoters, the city lacks in music venues but in 2018 that changed and under the backdrop of Stirling Castle, Scottish music icons Runrig performed their ‘Last Dance’ at the new open air City Park. Yet to be utilised to it’s full potential, this year the popular Summer Sessions welcomed Stirling to their ever growing roster of live hosts. Starting out big, the four day event saw showstopping headline performances from the likes of Shania Twain, Tom Jones and Busted. But up first was 2012 X Factor winner, James Arthur – ready to get the party started!

He may be most well known for his stint on the X Factor, but the Middleborough singer has gone on to become one of the most successful X Factor contenders in its history. His winners single ‘Impossible‘ (originally by Shontelle) went straight to No.1 in the UK singles chart and has since sold over 2.5 million copies. Parting ways with label Syco back in 2015, James Arthur has developed and transformed into the much loved pop star he is today. Earlier this year James received his second UK No.1 album with Bitter Sweet Love and tonight he would bring his 5 album discography to Stirling crowds. Before that though, it was Scottish singer songwriter Cammy Barnes, accomplished Glasgow favourites Fatherson and Sweden’s double Eurovision winner Loreen.

An eclectic line-up to say the least, but the pop themed line up seemed a hit with the cold and damp audience. It wasn’t the Summer night we had envisioned but this is Scotland and we know to expect anything and everything when it comes to our weather: so armed with our poncho’s, Stirling turned out. Arriving mid set of Fatherson, I felt this band were done a disservice being billed alongside artists like Loreen and James Arthur. I missed Cammy Barnes opening set but already familiar with his music I felt this show was a night of 2 (maybe 3) parts. Cammy felt a natural fit alongside Fatherson but they were completely overshun by a pop star like Loreen, who turned out to be a highlight of the night.

LOREEN @ Stirling Summer Sessions (DF Concerts)

With her industrious fusion of dance meets pop flavours, Loreen delivered a flawless headline worthy performance. Sharing with us that her favourite weather is rain, it’s fair to assume that the Swedish star wouldn’t be as happy standing on the opposite side of the barrier tonight – facing the unfiltered wild elements of Scotland’s “summer”. Fans dancing along to the full provided an encouraging rhetoric from Loreen who genuinely appears in her comfort zone on a stage of this size. Ending on a high with a consecutive duo of her Eurovision winning songs ‘Euphoria‘ (2012) and ‘Tattoo‘ (2023), the Swedish star leaves to make space for this evening main attraction.

The anticipation is building towards James Arthur‘s Stirling stage debut with fans filling out the golden circle and beyond; even being spotted on the surrounding areas out with the park, eager to catch a glimpse of the indie pop star. Sharing tracks and a select few covers from his five album repotiore, James opens with the title track to latest effort, ‘Bitter Sweet Love‘. Focusing mostly on this album, he takes time between numbers to chat with his fans. These moments uncover a resonating vulnerability and likeability which led to his public win all those years ago. Of course, the biggest crowd reaction is drawn from the singers biggest hits such as ‘Cars Outside‘, ‘Can I Be Home‘, ‘Impossible‘ and The Greatest Showman soundtrack hit ‘Rewrite The Stars‘. Dropping a cover of Christina Perry’s ‘Thousand Years‘ as of it were his own, it’s his best known song, 2019’s ‘Say You Won’t Let Go‘ which leaves the opening night of Stirling’s Summer Sessions on a sentimental high.

Stirling Summer Sessions 2024 (DF Concerts)

Stirling City Park is huge and probably bigger than it really needed to be tonight, however, it ensured those who really wanted to be there had the best view they could. The atmosphere lacked a little for what should have been a monumental night for Stirling’s first ever Summer Sessions. Many fans – particularly those with young families – were opting to leave early but given the driecht conditions I think we can overlook the dampened after to what will hopefully be the first of many large scale gigs in Scotland’s “gateway to the Highlands”.

SUMMER SESSIONS are set to continue at various locations over July & August and you can check out what’s still to come HERE!

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