Hip country music duo The Shires took the stage on Tuesday night at London’s Shepherds Bush Empire to support American Country stars Little Big Town. There were catchy love songs, feel-good rhythms – and not a cowboy boot in sight.
For a band that only got together nine months ago, The Shires have plenty to be proud of. Not only have they signed two record deals on both sides of the pond, they’ve also scored a Number 1 album in the iTunes UK Country Music Chart. Despite their whirlwind of a year, their unassuming nature was strongly apparent at their gig on 10 February from the moment they made they stepped on the stage. Quietly taking to their microphones, the pair smiled at the crowd.
Their low-key entrance was met by a ripple of cheers from the crowd, which included fans of all generations – from older couples to a handful of tweenagers.
The pair, who have set out to “make country cooler than ever”, looked every inch the trendy country stars. Ben, on guitar, sported a faded denim shirt, while Crissie, on vocals, wore a black skater dress with laced arms and ankle boots. Not quite the plaid shirt affair I was expecting.
The blue-lit stage set the tone perfectly for the sombre opening song, Brave. The bittersweet ballad, which is about opening up after heartbreak, was made all the more poignant by Crissie’s angelic voice. But the real draw was when Ben joined in during the second chorus. His velvety-smooth voice blends effortlessly with Crissie’s, making them a match made in country heaven. Syrupy-sweet lyrics like, “you never have to feel so alone” and “let me mend your broken soul” made it an apt opening song for Valentine’s week.
After a sombre start, it was time to raise the tempo with the band’s hit song Nashville Skies – a jaunty country tune infused with a catchy pop beat. “Are we ready to dance?” cried Crissie. “Let’s see you moving,” she continued. Within seconds, the crowd was swaying.
The song is an ode to US city, Nashville, the home of country music. The song shares their love of the city and their dreams of building their very own Nashville in England.
What I found most striking throughout the show was how refreshingly modest and affable the pair were. In between each song they expressed their gratitude towards their fans, particularly when introducing “State Lines”. The ballad, which has been riding high in the UK Country Charts for several weeks, is about new love, and loving the endearing habits of that special someone. The song is peppered with charming, saccharine references to the US, including and “you make me smile…when you roll your eyes like a cool New Yorker” and “you cry like the Mississippi when we’re just watching a movie”.
The high point of the night was an energetic performance of the feel-good song “Friday Night”. A wail of cheers filled the room as Crissie beckoned the crowd to raise their drinks in the air in celebration of everyone’s favourite night. The whole room swayed in rhythm with the catchy tune, which has summer hit written all over it.
Along with songs from their album Brave, the duo paid tribute to some of their biggest musical icons. This included a slow tempo version of Candi Staton’s classic Young Hearts Run Free, during which Crissie showcased an impressive Dolly Parton-esque twang. Ben really came into his own as he hit impressively high notes during the final verse.
The show closed as the ever-grateful duo thanked their fans, their manager and Radio 2 for their loyal support. Of all the gigs I’ve been to, The Shires are undoubtedly the most grounded and engaging performers I’ve seen in a long while. With their edgy country sound and seamless vocals, The Shires are definitely ones to watch out for in 2015.