By Hannah Compton 19th April 2015
Photos by Jamie Lee Bassingthwaighte and Alicia Woodward
Sat in a pub, opposite Union Chapel, we, The Super Fan Crew were drinking merrily, sharing stories, trying to escape a creepy waiter and getting ready to see The Shires in one of the most beautiful venues the UK has to offer.
Mid April and not a grey sky to speak of, the sun enabled us to queue early. Only two people before us, we all gathered around outside the venue on Compton Terrace – a place with my name on it, literally,and were getting excited for the show.
As the doors opened, we ventured in and took to our seats – or pews should I say? The stage was stunning with a beautiful pulpit in the middle with wonderful fine detail and gargoyles along the bottom. I half expected Crissie to appear from it singing, alas, this did not happen. The stage was set with many instruments and with a drum set with The Shires logo in big writing on it. I have to admit, I did check to see if Ben’s keyboard was plugged in this time after the 02 incident,ha.
For those who have never been to Union Chapel before, you really must visit. It truly is a stunning venue. Church pews as your seats (after all it is a chapel so you would expect that), a beautiful pulpit as I mentioned and beautiful craftsmanship all over. It’s a fair sized venue with the capacity of approximately 900 people downstairs plus the gallery, making it a very intimate setting.The Chapel gives wonderful acoustics which is amongst the many reasons why you should catch a concert here if you can. Also, there is a little doorway which serves snacks and more importantly TEA. Now I was happy.
John and Jacob were the support act. No strangers to the UK Country Music fan base having toured with The Band Perry and Kacey Musgraves, we were more than pleased to welcome them back. They started off by saying how happy they were to be back in the UK – I definitely feel that they have a home here now and we will always embrace them. Arriving on stage wearing matching suits, they kicked off with Do Me Like You Do.
In between songs, they constantly mention how much they love the UK and hope to bring the full band next time – well we hope they do! Two very talented men, they don’t just sing well and play guitar but Jacob captivated the audience with his skills on the trumpet. John and Jacob are hard to place genre wise as have a little bit of country, a little bit of rock ‘n’ roll and a folky feel to their music. Telling us how they have been compared to The Everly Brothers, they then did a cover of Wake Up Little Susie– my friend Suze being on front row kept pretending to be asleep each time they sang the lyric and then quickly waking up. Well,we found it funny.
John and Jacob are also known for writing the song Done with Neil and Reid of The Band Perry which The Band Perry reached number one with in the US. They have also had a song which featured on ABC’s Nashville called Be My Girl, which they ended their set with.
John and Jacob really caught the attention of the crowd and got everyone up and moving. They were clearly enjoying themselves, so much so in fact that Jacob knocked over his bottle of beer, my friend Janet to the rescue saving it before it spilt over any wires. Whilst John and Jacob were electrifying , we certainly didn’t want that to be in the literal sense, so big thanks to Janet.
All in all a great warm up to a great night.
We didn’t have to wait long for The Shires, which is always a nice thing as we were all still buzzing from John and Jacob. Having the full band with them this time, it really felt like a different experience. The band taking stage first, they started to play a build up piece as Crissie and Ben walked on and they then played straight into that beautiful riff from Nashville Grey Skies everyone stood up and got going. Great choice to start the set.
Ben and Crissie have such great chemistry on stage and always talk to the audience like they are friends of theirs. So much more confidence this time, Crissie asked the audience to get up and sing along. One of the reasons that I keep going back to their gigs is the fact you just feel at ease as well as having an amazing time with fantastic music. This show, in particular was undeniably brilliant.
Since their success of securing a top ten spot in the album charts, their fan base has grown massively and it was a wonderful feeling to hear everyone sing every word. You could tell that The Shires were in awe and at one point, I am sure they were welling up. Playing most of the songs we are used to hearing – and happily so – they also sung album tracks we hadn’t heard live before, such as Drink You Away and my favourite Jekyll and Hyde which as a more rocky song. This was great live and nice to see a different side to Ben and Crissie. Their band got the crowd participation thing going with clapping and hands in the air and it filled the room with more energy.
Energy, performance and setting wise, this was by far the best show of theirs I have been to. Being front row helped ,but just the fact that it was so much fun overall. Their voices really fed off the acoustics and brought such a flawless sound that whenever Crissie sung a ballad, you just had to watch, listen and appreciate.
They ended the set with Tonight, doing the usual split of the crowd for part of the song, playing the audience against each other – my friends and I are very competitive and always intend to win.
As soon as they left the stage the crowd continued with the Tonight chant to lure them back on stage and when they did, Ben filmed us chanting saying ‘WOW’and’ Thank You’ throughout. This led to an encore of Black and White and their beautiful version of Islands in the Stream. The audience were a really big part of the show, ranging from all ages and even Jo Wiley, it was a show worth going to.
The Shires just keep getting better and better live and I cannot wait to see what they bring to the Shepherds Bush gig on October 24th.
They will also make their Opry Debut in Nashville June 6th so if you are there, please go and support, it is an opportunity you don’t want to miss and I am heartbroken that I cannot be there.