The Shires, The Sage, Gateshead
Thursday April 9 2015
The Shires are riding the crest of a wave at the moment, and the stage is their surf-board, as was proved at the Sage in Gateshead on Thursday.
Their performance was that of a band at the top of their game, and the confidence they now have – following the overwhelming success of their top 10 debut album Brave – is clearly evident.
They have the world at their feet, and where they can go from here nobody knows, but certainly they have the opportunity to become iconic figures in the British music scene, having already seemingly done more for country music in the UK, than anyone else has for decades.
They entered the auditorium from the back of the stage to a tumultuous welcome. A crowd of all ages and walks of life were ecstatic as they kicked things off with Nashville Grey Skies – the whole of the audience singing along.
Drink You Away and All Over Again followed before Ben slowed things down, swapping his guitar for the piano, as Crissie and he belted out their new single State Lines, Brave and the beautiful ballad I Just Wanna Love You.
The crowd were dancing again to Friday Night which they preceded with a first verse and chorus of Eric Paslay’s US hit of the same name.
“This is our wild card song on the album,” announced Crissie, referring to the rock-sounding Jekyll And Hyde.
The rammed Hall 2 of the Sage, with its spectacular acoustics (second only in the UK to the Royal Albert Hall), were lapping up every pitch-perfect note from the pair.
The sentimental Made In England was next.
“We’re so proud to be English,” said Ben, “Well, British actually, but although we tried, it just didn’t fit,” he laughed as he demonstrated the chorus’s line using Britain instead of England.
“This song should go down well tomorrow,” smiled Crissie – referring to the next show in Glasgow. Cue laughs and cheers from the engrossed audience.
Tonight rounded off the main set… but the fans wanted more… and more they got.
The duo returned for a 2 song encore of Black and White, and finally, their stunningly brilliant, stripped down, ballad-style version of the classic Islands In The Stream.
Thus the metaphoric curtain dropped on a fantastic night. I have been to many gigs over the years, from all genres of music, which includes indie bands like The Rifles and Maximo Park, Legends like Neil Diamond, and rock legends like Rage Against The Machine and Garbage… But never have I seen an act own the stage, and have an heir of belonging there more than I did tonight.
The Shires deserve to be where they are, they deserve the success and the plaudits, and they WILL be owning stages – and ones a lot bigger than this – for many years to come.
I have said before, and I told Ben and Crissie this, that one night at the Country to Country festival should have a 4th act on the bill, and that spot should be filled by a UK country artist. The Shires would certainly not be out of place in the company of the top American acts, and if (as I hope it will) a Mercury Music Prize nomination follows, then I am sure that the clamour to make this a reality will grow.
Written by Paul Nicholson
Follow me on Twitter @magpie5uk or @PNic_SpJournStu