Paul Nicholson

Review: The Shires @ The Sage

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The Shires

The Shires are quickly establishing themselves as one of British music’s most unlikely success stories. They’ve brought country music to the mainstream, gaining regular airplay on BBC Radio 2, as well as dominating the track-listing A lists of most of the UK online country music radio stations.

They are single-handedly changing the face of country music, and last week (April 9) they brought their Nashville-sound to Gateshead.

Few gigs that I have been to have attracted such a cross-section of fans, all eagerly awaiting the appearance of the first home-grown country act to have an album that has managed to crack the top 10.

With an audience ranging from pre-teen to pensioner, the atmosphere was building prior to the doors opening. Once they did, the venue filled up rapidly. It was, unusually, virtually full by time the support act, John and Jacob – a well-known duo from Birmingham, Alabama, who have had songs featured in the hit TV show Nashville – played the opening chords of their acoustic set.

With a sound akin to The Everly Brothers, the crowd were lapping it up, which just raised the excitement levels for the headliners.

The Shires2

The Shires emerged from the back of the stage, and launched into their popular single Nashville Grey Skies. The crowd, young and old, sang along enthusiastically. This proved to be the platform for the rest of the hour-long, 13-song set.

With Ben Earle strumming his rhythmic guitar as he sang, and Crissie Gudgin looking and sounding great, the pair looked like they had been playing headline gigs for years – belying the mere 2 years that they’ve been together. They were oozing confidence on stage, and the audience were engrossed.

After the upbeat Drink You Away and infectious All Over Again, the pace slowed down as Ben ditched his guitar for the piano.

“We’re so grateful to every single one of you that has bought the album. Its success is beyond our wildest dreams, and it’s all down to you,” he said sincerely before launching into their new single State Lines, title track Brave and the beautiful ballad I Just Wanna Love You.

Other highlights of the night were Friday Night – which was mashed with US country star Eric Paslay’s Friday Night – and their final song of the main set Tonight.

They left to rapturous applause, and returned for a 2-song encore, starting with Black And White and rounding the night off with their stunning, slowed-down version of the country classic Islands in the Stream.

It was an amazing night, with a magnificent venue, and a spectacular performance.

They owned the stage and owned the audience from start to finish, and you can’t help but think that they’ll be doing so for years to come, and on much larger stages than this.

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