Ward Thomas – Cartwheels Tour 2017 – Birmingham UK

By Claire Louise Fallis

Growing up on a farm in Hampshire, twin sisters Catherine and Lizzy Ward Thomas broke records when their latest album ‘Cartwheels‘ entered the album charts at #1 last year. Now they are currently touring in support of the album. I last saw the girls at Country To Country where they played a few tracks on the satellite acoustic stage, so I was keen to see them play with a full band.

The support act were the acclaimed americana group, WildWood Kin. The female trio hail from Devon and are comprised of members Beth and Emillie (who are sisters) and their cousin Meghann. Growing up the group listened to the likes of Simon & Garfunkel, Fleetwood Mac and James Taylor and were inspired by them musically.

Opening their set with a track named ‘Warrior Daughter‘ I was blown away by their talent and reminded of First Aid Kit with their folky sound. Aside from singing all three of them play other instruments, including drums, electric and acoustic guitar and an unusual instrument called a Bouzouki – which is Greek and similar to a mandolin in sound. Continuing their set with a mix of original material and covers, the attentive crowd were excellent in their appreciation of the band, with a handful of die hard fans in the audience. The girls laughed and joked along with the audience, and it was clear they were having the time of their lives on stage.

My only criticism is I wished they’d introduced themselves. I’m sure more experience playing in a live setting will boost their confidence though. Particular highlights were the haunting ‘On and On’ – an original about life after death. alongside their outstanding cover of ‘Helplessly Hoping’ – originally by Crosby, Stills & Nash. Their harmonies were sublime on the later, and I really hope a recorded version makes its way onto their album, which is due for release in the Summer. Breezing their way though their set, half an hour passed quickly. Their music is pleasant and I wouldn’t pass up the opportunity to see them again.

With a packed out O2 Institute, Ward Thomas took the stage about 9PM. As the lights went down the intro to ‘Material‘ started playing. As I was stood on the balcony I could hear loud screams and cheers from the crowd below as Catherine and Lizzy took their place on stage.

Opening with ‘Dirt And Gold’ and following on with ‘Boomarang‘ the duo had the audience clapping along in no time. The majority of their setlist was from the ‘Cartwheels‘ album (Tracks such as ‘Almost Easy’, ‘Guilty Flowers’ and ‘Lose Me‘), however having been a fan since their debut ‘From Where We Stand‘ was released, it was great to hear a few tracks from that also – especially the catchy ‘Town Called Ugley‘.

At various points throughout the show I struggled to hear the majority of the lyrics due to bad sound engineering on the venues part. However, vocally there’s no denying both sisters can sing.

“We put the past behind all of that sadness, I’m glad you found something true, love looks good on you” they swooned on ballad ‘Good On You’. The powerful statement was sung with such emotion and had top notch vocal delivery, I felt the addition of a cello made it a little special too. Title track ‘Cartwheels‘ is my song from the record and I first heard the song when they played at C2C in 2015. It was nice to hear it again this time with a full band.

To the fans delight two new songs made their way into the set – the first ‘Breathe In‘ is a lovely ballad that explores the bond the twins share, whereas the up-tempo ‘I Believe In You’ features a catchy chorus. The girls invited the audience to participate in singing “you’re on your way, yeah” back to them, which received a great reaction. Both new tracks are expected to be on the duos third studio album, due for release next year. As they’ve recently released a covers EP (A Shorter Story), it would have been unfair to let an entire show pass without singing at least one. Years and Years’ ‘Shinewas the choice and they gave it their own unique twist, proving they can be versatile. Towards the end of the show came ‘Carry You Home’ – an uplifting song that carries a pop country sound with a slight drum beat. I’ve loved the track ever since I heard the album, so was glad it made the setlist.

Overall Ward Thomas are a talented duo and clearly have a loyal fanbase that will continue to support them. In a live setting I’d hoped they’d be more energetic but that still didn’t take away the enjoyment of their music.

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