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As The Shires walked on stage to rapturous applause, it was if they were the stars of the show. Their brand of homegrown country has taken the UK by storm, and their latest single, Friday Night has garnered considerable airplay on our major radio stations. The duo, Chrissie Rhodes and Ben Earle, seemed genuinely humbled as the audience sang along to their hits, including Nashville Grey Skies and Tonight, so it came as no surprise when Ben revealed that their upcoming album will most likely make it to the top ten on pre-orders alone.
The pair performed a simple acoustic set, focusing on the lead vocal and close harmonies that give the band their distinctive sound. Their set provided a stark contrast to the headliners band-led set, but they proved their place as the UK’s most successful country export. Closing with their signature cover, Islands in the Stream, was the perfect introduction to Little Big Town; The Shires certainly know their audience.
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The atmosphere changed as the silhouettes of the four members of Little Big Town appeared on the stage. Opening with the high-energy Turn the Lights On set the tone for the evening. It seemed as if they played hit after hit – even though they played several album tracks from their newest album, Painkiller – and set moved effortlessly between songs. Everything about their performance was slick, professional and polished, from their pitch-perfect, four part harmonies, to the rise and fall of the tempo and dynamics kept the audience clinging to their every word.
Girl Crush was the stand out song of the evening, the dramatic vocal and simple instrumentation highlighted what is truly great about this band. They understand the importance of lyrics within the country tradition, and aren’t afraid to let them shine. Boondocks served as Little Big Town’s encore, their first major single released in 2005, and it still sounded as current as it did ten years ago. In fact, their set included 22 songs spanning their career, an impressive feat, sure to keep their most loyal fans happy.
If anything, Little Big Town were too polished, they seem to have lost the rawness and realness that gave their pop country an edge. However, sheer talent is more than evident in their performance, and the band will, no doubt, carry on moving from strength to strength.
Little Big Town’s tour continues tonight in Manchester, and tomorrow in Glasgow. Tickets are available <a href=”http://www.ticketmaster.co.uk/Little-Big-Town-tickets/artist/960074″>here.</a>
The Shires debut album Brave is released on March 2nd, and is available for pre-order <a href=”https://itun.es/gb/ya2R4″>here.</a>