St David’s Hall, Cardiff, Mon 14 May
The Shires, the UK country duo of Ben Earle and Crissie Rhodes, really started shining in 2015 after debut album Brave. Since then, they’ve been performing, writing and picking up fans along the way to the point where we, an almost full audience, were lucky enough to hear songs from their third and latest album, Accidentally On Purpose, on Monday night.
The evening opened with Sinead Burgess, an Australian country singer who met The Shires in Nashville. This was the first concert that I’ve seen in St David’s Hall and I won’t pretend I wasn’t sceptical about the all-seated arrangement; that having everyone sat down might detract from the energy of The Shires’ music. However, the duo retain an evocative stage presence, constantly in conversation with each other and the audience, that the seating simply aided in reinforcing the excellent music and sound quality. It also takes more than a recommended seat to stop their true fans from standing up and dancing.
The duo’s set draws on all three of their albums, with Daddy’s Little Girl from their second, My Universe, particularly well received. Earle took a moment afterwards to say how much he loves the song and the way Rhodes performs it with such passion; written about her late father, it’s a song that’s simultaneously deeply personal as well as relatable – a combination that really embodies what country music is all about. Another hit this evening was Stay The Night, written for them by Ed Sheeran and included on Accidentally On Purpose.
It’s always reassuring to see the performers having as much fun as the audience. There’s a lot to be said for country music, but most would agree that it’s nothing without passion and honesty. The Shires’ performance was many things, but it was mostly a whole lot of heart.
words MEGAN THOMAS photos GARETH GRIFFITHS