Country music has always been synonymous with America, not making a substantial impact on the UK audiences until recent years. The annual C2C festival held in London, Glasgow and Dublin has helped encourage the growth and subsequently saw the fastest selling and highest chart reaching album by a UK country act: The Shires.
Since their formation in 2013 Ben Earle & Crissie Rhodes, collectively known as The Shires, have had quite the success story; having surpassed all previous UK country acts’ achievements. All three of their releases have topped the UK country charts and entered the top 10 of the UK charts. The duo have travelled across continents, performing at prestigious venues such as the Bluebird Café in Nashville & London’s Royal Albert Hall.
For the evenings performance the duo had reached The Barbican, York on their impressive 22 date tour. Thunderous beating bass drums resounded throughout the auditorium, with their logo backdrop illuminated, introducing the band.
The band kicked off proceedings with the energetic ‘Echo’, a cut taken from their latest instalment ‘Accidentally On Purpose’. Before long the almost capacity, seated audience didn’t remain seated for long, with an electric start to the evening with pop orientated tracks such as ‘Beats To The Rhythm’ & ‘My Universe’.
Although predominantly a duo The Shires have a backing band who took the proverbial backseat, largely out of the limelight except for the occasional solo or full band jam.
With only 3 albums deep in their back catalogue The Shires have truly honed their brand of country entailing everything from folk to pop. Their transition from delicate, sentimental tracks to uplifting, party orientated tracks flows undisputedly naturally.
‘State Lines’ & ‘Daddy’s Little Girls’ are without doubt two of the standout performances of the evening. The former is the only track to be stripped down to its roots with the duo performing without the backing band.One thing is apparent from early on, The Shires are undeniably passionate at what they do. The chemistry Rhodes & Early share is admirable with each sharing anecdotes, in large part humorous ones, with the audience in between tracks giving plenty of audience interaction.
The title track to the latest release ‘Accidentally On Purpose’ is introduced by Earle explaining the humorous inspiration behind the track; an encounter Rhodes had whilst in Nashville and having to choose between staying and pursuing a new found love or returning to the UK.
‘Daddy’s Little Girl’, a song written by Rhodes about her relationship with her father who passed when she was young, is perfectly executed with the duo accompanied by Joel Peat on pedal steel guitar. Throughout the song you could hear a pin drop, the attentive audience fully immersed in the highly emotive deliverance.
Throughout the performance the duo reinforce their gratitude towards the fans for their support; noting their rise in popularity from their 2015 tour, which saw the band perform at the modest 200 capacity Pocklington Art Centre.
“Tonight, tonight, Been waiting all my life, For tonight, and it’s like, We never said goodbye” couldn’t have been a more appropriate sentiment for the performances culmination, an upbeat easily accessible number. As the duo exited the stage the audience continued chanting in unison the melody to ‘Tonight’, resonating throughout the auditorium before they re-emerged for an inevitable encore, performing a further 3 tracks.
‘Islands In The Stream’ a perfectly suited track for the duo, originally covered for an 80’s series for the radio, goes down a storm possessing a more updated, current feel.
It’s never going to be an easy feat being a UK country outfit, trying to win over and compete with the UK and US audiences. However, within a live setting it’s overtly apparent the amount of talent, chemistry and authenticity the The Shires possess alongside the necessary charisma to work an audience.
The evenings full setlist was…
Beats To Your Rhythm
Stay The Night
All Over Again
Accidentally On Purpose
Ahead Of The Storm
I Just Wanna Love You
Daddy’s Little Girl
The Hard Way
Nashville Grey Skies
River Of Love
Loving You Too Long
Islands In The Stream
A Thousand Hallelujahs