Live Reviews

The Shires and Ward Thomas Homegrown Tour

the shiresSunday, 30 November 2014

So……….November 2014 was to be a great month for Country Music fans in the UK, especially in the case of UK Country Artists. Seemed like only yesterday that The Shires and Ward Thomas announced their Co Headline tour, an idea that came together when they hung out in Nashville earlier in the year. As Ben from The Shires had recently said, ‘most good ideas never actually follow through and are just exactly that, an idea’. I, myself have wondered if the idea came to them over perhaps a night of Moonshines at a Nashville Honky Tonk or perhaps a discussion over a sensible Coffee? If anything like me, all my joint ideas with friends come to mind over a few drinks and are forgotten about the next morning or just an idea placed on the shelf and something that will be probably never be spoken of again but then those ideas are usually the case of “Oh we should totally start a band” or “Lets totally go on holiday or lets start our own cake business starting tomorrow” Which we actually made cakes to see if we were any good at it the next day and Helen forgot to put sugar in them and mine disintegrated so…gave up we did. However, in this case, whether it be a Moonshine night out or a coffee chat idea they managed to see it through and glad we are that it happened.



Tuesday 4 November – Birmingham Glee Club
Thursday 6 November – Liverpool Academy 2
Friday 7 November – Bristol Thekla
Sunday 9 November – Oxford Academy 2
Monday 10 November – London Bush Hall – Ward Thomas to headline
Tuesday 11 November – London Bush Hall –The Shires to headline
Thursday 13 November – Manchester Band on the Wall
Friday 14 November – Gateshead The Sage
Sunday 16 November – Leeds Brudenell Social Club
Monday 17 November – Norwich Waterfront
Thursday 20 November – Yorkshire, Pocklington Arts Centre
Sunday 23 November – Glasgow King Tuts
Monday 24 November – Middlesbrough The Empire
Wednesday 26 November – Nottingham Rescue Rooms
Thursday 27 November – Milton Keynes The Stables

My Twitter feed flared up when this tour was announced and when tickets went on sale. I was at work when they went on sale and had to sneakily buy them but could not till quite late but was happy to secure Bristol and Milton Keynes tickets. The wait was very exciting as two of the UK’ best Country Artists were actually touring together. Could things really get any better? I had never seen Ward Thomas live so was extra excited for that and having their album From Where We Stand on repeat just made it even better.

I wish I could have gone to more than two shows and it wasn’t necessarily a financial situation but travel, work and many other factors just made it impossible and my husband is understanding but erm not that understanding ha.

So once the Homegrown Tour started of course seeing all the tweets about the first shows made me envious and excited for my shows. The first one I went to was The Bristol show at The Thekla.

Now nobody told me this was a boat. Yes a boat, not a rubber dingy or in the middle of a river but a docked boat. I was actually foolish to not get my husband to finish work early as we assumed, living in Gloucestershire that we would make this in perfect time. Well….wrong were we. I don’t think it helped that we decided to stop at KFC, an idea meant to be clever as KFC is fast food but actually got stuck at the drive in for ten mins, order was taken wrong, then given the wrong food and oh god do I go on? I got overcharged too.

Eventually arriving in the pouring rain, in The Nashville Grey Skies we arrived at The Thekla boat. Now I would recommend to anyone who intends to go to this venue, for whatever event, arrive a bit early as parking really is limited and alternative parking is not really that close by. The nearest being on Prince Street maybe. The Thekla also hosts club nights as well as live music. It is a nice little venue which is all standing and a balcony with limited spaces too. Again, I recommend an early arrival for a good spot as it is a boat and fairly narrow so less standing space.

We arrived just in time. My husband kindly dropped my friend and I off as he looked for a parking spot and I am so glad he did. When we got in we managed to get a drink at the bar just as Ward Thomas took the stage. We missed the support act who I was told was very good. This inspired my very poor attempt at a lyric change to Ward Thomas’ A town Called Ugley

Left in plenty of time and thank god we did, coz if we had left just a lil bit later we would have missed the gig. Turned up as Ward Thomas took the stage, if I had missed even half a song i would have filled with rage x

My husband sadly missed most of Ward Thomas finding a parking space.

So as I said Ward Thomas were on first and they started with singing the intro to Pistol Annies Run Daddy Run from the Hunger Games film this then went into The Good and The Right. Vocally you cannot fault Catherine or Lizzy Ward Thomas. Despite being twins they are not identical visually or vocally and have different personalities too. Its hard to decide who is the better vocalist, I don’t think that you can as they are so different and strong in their own way. There is something I love about these girls that I can’t describe but they are very likeable and just down to earth girls with a massive talent and yet no ego whatsoever. At only 19 or 20 (not sure) these girls have written songs that are truly beyond their years to the point you almost don’t believe they wrote them but they did. Lyrically and musically every song has a mature unique sound and each song is clever with a great story/meaning behind it. I literally love every song on the album and wish they could have played them all but were only on stage for 45 minutes. From memory and not in order the set list included:

The Good and The Right
Cartwheels (New song)
Push for The Stride
A Town Called Ugley
Way Back When
Guest List
Wasted Words
Shake It Off (Taylor Swift cover)
Take That Train

The whole set was amazing and their interaction with the crowd was warming and also funny. Take that Train is my favourite song and it was nice to hear the story behind it and to see it live finally and also the story behind a Town Called Ugley.

It was great to hear a new song (Cartwheels) and I really loved their version of Shake it Off by Taylor Swift. Now I am a big fan of Taylor, she got me into Country Music but Shake it Off is not that great but Ward Thomas did make it better and not annoying.

I love that they performed Caledonia originally done and written by Dougie Maclean although I had never heard it before Ward Thomas’ version. This performance was so beautiful.

Their set was over too quickly. They ended with Way Back When which towards the end mashed it up with Michael Jacksons Man in The mirror which was very good and mixed well. They had a good relationship with their band who were also excellent and seemed like they all have a lot of fun on the road.

Next up was The Shires

They started with Black and White. They went straight into song before introducing themselves which I always like in a gig. After the first song the rest of the band joined them. The set list was fantastic and they sang their next single to be On A Friday Night which I absolutely loved. It was very uplifting and fun and had all the qualities to easily be a song that Lady Antebellum would record and quite possibly would if it was offered to them though I am so glad it wasn’t as clearly The Shires are better.

Nashville Grey Skies as usual had such a great response and everybody sang along to every word and it really uplifted the entire venue. I am pretty sure Crissie got the lyrics the wrong way at one point. She pointed to herself and Sang Country Girls when it should have been Country Boys, it was funny as I do that ALL the time despite knowing the song very well. Its like when you write a date repeatedly in one day, you stop after writing it loads and say whats the date today? It didn’t ruin the song, I mean we are all family in a way under a country roof or in this case under our Nashville Grey Skies so we all laugh these things off and go with the flow.

Other songs on the set list were:

Brave (title track to the upcoming album)
State Lines
Islands In The Stream ( Cover)
This is featured on The Sound of the 80’s album which can be purchased here :
Only Midnight The lyrics in this song really speak to me as is about that feeling after a first date when it goes well and you want them to call and you think should I call them?? I drive myself INSANE with moments like this.
All Over Again This, I believe was the first song Ben and Crissie wrote together and its always lovely to have this on their set list as I think it means a lot to them both and it shows and it is a great song.

I have to say that Tonight is always one of my favourite songs of theirs live. I love the crowd participation in this song and always seem to be on the winning side of course 🙂

I do miss having I Just Wanna Love You on the set list, but hopefully next tour.

When The Shires performed their last song they invited Ward Thomas back to the stage and they performed Striking Matches I Ain’t leavin without your love – together. This was so much fun and sooo good. I love this song as huge Striking Matches fan and they covered it very well and were clearly enjoying themselves.

The show was over too quickly but I had Milk N Beans to look forward to.

My only criticism about the whole night was part of the audience. Towards the back where we were people were chatting beyond belief. It was beyond rude. If you want to talk go to a pub or somewhere else. The sound guy even had to turn up the sound it was so bad. Though..things I learnt from the noisy audience.

The person behind me had piles and was going to the doctor
The other people behind me were trying to guess how tall my friend was
Someone had never been to Scotland but wanted to

All fascinating things that have changed my life….hmmmm

I stuck around after the show to say hi to The Shires and to meet Ward Thomas for the first time. I went to see Ben and Crissie first and they were lovely as usual. They said hi and I said how much I enjoyed the show and thanked Crissie for The Proms in The Park tickets as didn’t get to thank her before. I bought two Green Note EPs and got one signed as well as two promotional postcards as was going to hold a competition for one of the postcards on my @theshiresfans twitter page which I have now done and sent to the winner.

Ward Thomas were really lovely and I had my album and all my promo cds to get signed which I was slightly embarrassed about the amount of things I had for them. They were fine with it and I told them I run the Shiresfans twitter page and they said they retweet me all the time which they do and its lovely.

I also managed to get a tour poster which was already signed by Ward Thomas and I intended to get it signed by The Shires but forgot I had it so was going to try at Milton Keynes. I also nabbed a venue poster thanks to the kind bouncer.

I wish I could have been closer to get photos or videos but as relying on my husband to get me there, we rarely get to the front.

After buzzing from The Bristol show, my friend and I really wanted to get tickets to The Oxford show but it was sold out.

Last minute we heard that Ward Thomas were doing an instore performance at The Truck Music Store in Oxford so decided to go. Sadly before we left, I went to sit on a chair at home which my husband moved without telling me, not on purpose and I fell smack on the floor in the seating position. Weeks later it still hurts 😦 We still made it to the Truck Music store but I had to ensure I got a seat due to being in pain.

When Ward Thomas arrived they got on the tiny stage with two band members and just sang. They sang The Good and the Right, Push for the Stride and Way Back When.

When they first arrived we had a little chat and I asked if I could film it and they said of course. I told them I could not get tickets to the Oxford show but was looking forward to Milton Keynes and was grateful for seats as at that age now where standing for too long hurts ha ha not to mention my recent bad back. Being somewhere finally with a good view I could film it YES. During one of the songs this woman came in to browse at the cds, dropped a whole load and looked at me and ran out. I was trying sooo hard not to laugh and was trying to film at the same time. I am pretty sure Catherine and Lizzy were trying not to laugh as well. It was one of those very hard moments when you try sooo hard not to laugh that it is almost impossible. The key is to NOT make eye contact with anyone else on the verge of laughing under any circumstances. The show was very intimate and only about 15 people there and I loved every minute of it as was just so small and perfect. Wow can those girls sing and impressed passer byers who stopped to have a little look.

The girls signed after and remembered me from Bristol, they signed my erm stolen Thekla poster and my cd. We spoke for a while, had a photo and then I left.


So we had seats to this, woo hoo, bad back and all that this was verrry welcome. We left early got there early and it all ran smoothly. I met up with @bringcountry2uk who was very lovely and sweet and was wonderful to meet her.

I had great seats, thought excellent I can finally get good pics but… wasn’t permitted in this venue ahhhhh. Oh well, at least for once I would have a good view and that was all that mattered to me in the long run.

Taylor and Marie were the support act who were amazing. Great vocals and songs and very entertaining and funny. I would definitely recommend you look them up and go and see them if you get a chance

As is same set list I will not go through it again but I can say that This show was my favourite for many reasons

The performances were flawless
I had seats
I could see

I know as performers most prefer a standing audience but I really did love it and enjoyed just sitting down appreciating every part of it. We did all stand up during Aint leaving without your love and that was a great end to the end of the tour.

@bringcountry2uk and I met Ward Thomas together and they knew who we both were which was very sweet and took photos and signed out tickets.

I went to say hello to The Shires after too and told them it was my best show for them yet. They signed my posters and took a photo and I bought yet another EP. Crissie told me they now call Milton Keynes Milk N Beans which made me giggle. I didn’t invent it, everyone I knew in Northampton called Milton Keynes Milk N Beans and it just stuck 🙂

Overall what a great two shows and in my opinion a perfect end to the Home Grown Tour. I will miss this tour a great deal as has been fun and have loved reading all the tweets and reviews and seeing all the pics from other fans.

I cannot wait for the album release of the shires and the next tour. You can pre order Brave here :

The release date does keep changing so am unsure of exact date.

Ward Thomas at The Truck Music Store- Oxford Nov 9th

Categories: Live Reviews

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