For a band with just two albums under their belt and who only started writing back in 2013, The Shires are having no difficulties in trailblazing the country music scene both here and on the other side of the pond. In fact, they’re at the helm of a landmark year for UK Country. The band has so far achieved 2 Gold Albums in just 12 months, and are the first ever UK Country artist to win a CMA award. So it’s little surprise that they easily sold out venues across their UK tour, including their final night in none other than the London Palladium.
After the soft tones of support act Catherine McGrath, The Shires open with the huge anthemic sounds of their second album ‘My Universe’, including the self-titled first track and ‘Drive’. The Shires clearly appeals over a cross section of ages, and from the boxes up to the upper circle, the entire venue is up on their feet right away. And it’s easy to see why. Each of their songs has an easy, catchy sound; once you’ve heard them a first time, they’ll continue to hold a sunny pop nostalgia in your mind.
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Ben Earle and Crissie Rhodes, singer-songwriters who both had failed to qualify on X Factor, have certainly not needed the talent show to make their own path. Crissie is a natural performer up on stage, easily drawing the crowd to stand, dance, clap and dance along. And Ben especially has a supremely versatile music talent. He moves from piano to guitar with gentle ease, all the while continuing his effortless vocals.
For a band with only two albums, they’ve managed to make each song a hit. They play ‘Over Again’ from their first album ‘Brave’, describing it as their first song they had written back in St Albans. Then it’s on to ‘Not Even Drunk Right Now’, ‘Beats To Your Rhythm’ and ‘Save Me’, only pausing from their album setlist for a rendition of Robbie Williams’ ‘Angels’.
There’s a tendency in the first big anthems for the band to exchange power for discernibility, so it’s a real pleasure when they take a breather and strip it all back for ‘Daddy’s Little Girl’. Here you can hear the band’s country sound really take root. The song suits them both, with just a guitar and soft synth keys to accompany her voice (and the song actually works best without a drummer). Ben admits ‘that song breaks my heart every night’, and you can almost hear the venue nodding along from their seats.
The softness remains for the next few songs, with a soft rendition of ‘Brave’ and ‘State Lines’ until the band kicks back into their poppy sound with ‘Friday Night’ and ‘Jekyll And Hyde’. But now you can really hear the entire venue is along with them, and it’s not difficult to get a sense of how dedicated their fan base is. What’s great to see too, is the whole stage having fun – not just the singer-songwriters, but their whole band, smiling throughout as they jam in the background.
Finishing the show with ‘I Just Wanna Love You’ and ‘Tonight’, and you can’t imagine they have anything left in them. But no – without much ado, the duo launch straight into a three song encore, including ‘Other People’s Things’, a hotly anticipated ‘Made in England’, and ‘A Thousand Hallelujahs’, and the crowd just stay standing. One thing is clear: the British public (and their US fanbase too) want to hear more music like The Shires. If Ben and Crissie keep bringing out hit pop songs like these, there’s no doubt they’ll continue to sell out venues up and down the country.