I have been saying for years “Come to Stroud” to Country artists as although we are a small town, we are a town of passionate music lovers! This was proven last night with The Shires on October the 12th at the Subscription Rooms to a sold out crowd! Having been a fan of The Shires since pretty much day one, this meant a lot! The Sub Rooms are booking some great acts at the moment, Ward Thomas included and I assume the bookings are down to Hugh Phillimore whom recently took over the Sub Rooms. Phillimore is the man behind Cornbury Festival and a huge supporter of country music having booked both The Shires and Ward Thomas on numerous occasions at Cornbury so we can expect a continuous amount of great music from now on.
The Sub Rooms is relatively small in comparison to what The Shires are used to playing these days but perfect for an acoustic tour to which this was. Joined on stage by fan favourite Ollie Harding on Drums and someone new to me Joel Peat on the Pedal Steel Guitar. I love a pedal steel guitar and didn’t realise just how much I had missed that sound in a live setting these past 18 or so months!
A fine crowd of not just country music fans wanting to go to a country gig but of true Shires fans was wonderful to see.
Support came from UK country singer/songwriter Kezia Gill who has a massive following within the UK country fan base. Admittedly, I had never listened to her before but had been aware of the high praise she seems to constantly receive. Kezia surpassed my expectations. A powerhouse vocalist with a beautiful tone, Kezia wowed the audience with her beautiful songs and charming wit. Headline worthy herself, let’s hope we get Kezia back here for her own show. Kezia is one of those artists that when you see her live, you can’t understand why she isn’t already selling out theatres etc. Soon, I predict!
The Shires arrived on stage to an eager crowd. Emotions were in the air as of course for many of us, this was our first gig back since Covid broke and I personally couldn’t have chosen a better gig to go to as my first one back.
The duo played a string of songs across all five albums. Yes you read that right as a fifth album is coming early next year and has already been made. This past year Ben and Crissie have spent a couple of months making the album in his shed. Crissie tells the audience it isn’t a shed full of tools but a shed kitted out with music equipment. The new songs played were as beautiful as you would imagine and I can’t wait to her the studio versions. How lucky we were to be the third audience to ever hear some of those songs live.
As well as new tracks The Shires of course performed some oldies. We were treated, as I mentioned above to songs across all albums and some included songs that we don’t really get to hear at their shows that often such as I Just Want To Love You and Black and White from the Brave album and Kip Moore co written track Drive.
One of the most stunning performances of the night was when they played Daddy’s Little Girl. This song is always an emotional one to hear and emotional for Crissie to perform. A song written for her late father with whom she lost at a young age, the chorus in particular always pulls at the heartstrings. This time it seemed to really hit Crissie more so than ever, perhaps in part due to not having been able to perform it for a while because of Covid. It truly is a beautiful song that they should be incredibly proud of.
The crowd were up and dancing to songs such as Nashville Grey Skies, Guilty, Friday Night, Tonight and A Thousand Hallelujahs!
Tonight is always a popular song to close the set with before the encore! The crowd participation in this song is so much fun that I hope they never end with another song as it has become somewhat of a tradition at their gigs to continue the songs chant to get them back on stage for the encore. A Thousand Hallelujahs was the song they really closed with and again, has the crowd playing along with their hands up in the air chanting Hallelujah!
Ben and Crissie have such wonderful stage presence and it does feel like seeing friends or family up there. Humble despite their ever growing success, The Shires make every audience member feel important which not many artists do these days and it just makes their shows that little bit extra special. They just have great banter and are such nice people! It feels homely!
Having been to so many gigs in my lifetime across all genres, The Shires still remain one of the best live acts I have ever seen. They just lift your spirits! Exceptional vocalists, their performances are always flawless!
The Shires are due to return to The Sub rooms in January. Awaiting an official announcement, I cannot wait! It’s been years that I have been badgering them to play here and now it’s finally happened and looks like it may be a regular stop!
If you are a fan or simply haven’t heard them yet, I urge you give them a go as they never disappoint! The acoustic tour still has many stops. Check them out below!
The Shires also have their rescheduled full band tour in April/May next year
Meanwhile why not grab tickets to see their friends and fellow Country Music act Ward Thomas. Info and tickets here