Monday, 24 April 2017

The Shires - Bournemouth Pavilion Theatre (Live Review)

The Shires shine in Bournemouth 

on their MY UNIVERSE UK Tour Part 2!

Catherine McGrath & The Shires: Bournemouth Pavilion Theatre Live Reviews

Sunday 23 April 2017
Venue: Bournemouth Pavilion Theatre (Westover Road, Bournemouth BH1 2BU)
Seat: Stalls H14
Bournemouth Pavilion Theatre CLICK to ENLARGE
It was more Nashville Grey skies earlier in the day but from mid-afternoon the spring sunshine shone through to welcome The Shires to Bournemouth. However, it seems that The Shires (Ben Earle, Crissie Rhodes and band) took the opportunity to enjoy a couple of days to relax in the town after playing their previous show on Thursday in Edinburgh. Ben enjoyed some quality time with his wife and 10-month old son River who we learned in the show has already taken a liking to the drums!

As far as I recall this was their second time playing in Dorset having played at Camp Bestival in August 2015 and marked their first theatre show in the county having only previously ventured west to Hampshire playing The Anvil, Basingstoke and Southampton’s O2 Guildhall in November 2016 on the My Universe Tour Part 1.
Bournemouth Pavilion Theatre CLICK to ENLARGE

The Bournemouth Pavilion and Ballroom is Bournemouth’s stunning Art Deco theatre providing year-round entertainment for everyone. The 1920s venue retains a splendour and elegant style and is the town’s regular home for West End stage shows, Opera, Ballet, Pantomime and Comedy. The Pavilion Theatre holds a seated audience of 1012 in fixed seats on a raked floor, with a further 446 in the circle.
Flowers at Bournemouth Pavilion Theatre CLICK to ENLARGE

The tulips and wallflowers looked particularly nice in the grounds and gardens nearby to welcome country music lovers to the theatre. 

Catherine McGrath
20:00- 20:30
1. Hell Would Have To Freeze Over
2. Starting From Now    
3. Cinderella
4. Just In Case
5. She'll Never Love You
6. Wild
7. Never Want To Fall In Love

Catherine McGrath performing at Bournemouth Pavilion Theatre April 23, 2017

I was delighted to see that Warner Bros artiste Catherine McGrath was chosen as the support act. The 19-year old Belfast, Northern Ireland Pop/ Country singer-songwriter (now based in London) was a new name to me when I saw her name as one of the many artists listed for the Festival/ Pop Up stages at C2C Country To Country 2017. Due to multiple performance clashes, I had missed seeing her at the C2C Fans Lounge and Town Square stage on Saturday March 11th.

Prior to her opening for The Shires on this tour,  she has already supported The Saturdays’ Una Healy in February, Cam (Bush Hall, London) and Canaan Smith in March and performed an Under The Apple Tree session with Bob Harris last year >> "'Hell Would Have To Freeze".
Travelling to Bournemouth she had three guitars and a drum kit squeezed into the back of the car with her but was later able to chill out with a sunny beach walk and take in the nearby Amusements! (Instagram).
McGrath got her break after posting covers on YouTube and her rendition of Ed Sheeran’s Lego House resulted in ex-Warner Bros president Conrad Withey reaching out to her.

She released a 4 track EP titled ONE (2016 Warner Bros Records) back on Dec 23, 2016 and so far, 3 singles have dropped this year: “Starting From Now” on March 10th to coincide with her C2C slots, “When I’m Older” (March 30, 2017) and “Just In Case” was recently released on April 20th.
Before she took to the stage the audience were entertained with playout music from Ward Thomas, Florida Georgia Line and Raelynn’s “Love Triangle”.

Wearing a white top and destroyed denims Catherine was met by cheers receiving a very warm welcome joined by two musicians with her on stage John on acoustic guitar and for her first time the addition of a percussionist/ drummer (Luke).
She opened with the heartbreaker lead off track from her EP “Hell Would Have To Freeze Over” which relates the brutal truth to a boyfriend in Taylor Swift never-getting-back-together fashion with lines like You'd have to catch me a supernova. The song drew great applause and Catherine thanked the darkened audience for continuing to cheer.

Catherine, who says she enjoys listening to country music and eating chocolate likened next song “Starting From Now” to a diet going round in circles, impulse eating followed by the realization it’s time to shed the weight. As warning signs of a relationship going wrong surface, last chances have been and gone and it’s time to shut it down and erase the memory with words:  Don’t you know how hard it is to give you up like this, forgetting your name all over again, starting from now.
Catherine McGrath performs at Bournemouth Pavilion Theatre
McGrath told the audience that she was twelve years old when she discovered country music which was not a cool thing to do compared to her classmates. So, she thought it best to make the trip to Nashville taking in the Hey Y’alls and discovering that fireflies really do exist for real! She has since delved deeper into country genre tapping into the music of Kacey Musgraves, Dan + Shay and Maddie & Tae. I was not surprised to read she was initially won over by Taylor Swift’s self-titled album and she explained that regarding the song Cinderella that she co-wrote it with Liz Rose who is a frequent Tay-Tay collaborator who helped shape many of her hits. The delicate and softly Cinderella certainly tips a nod to the superstar and fits the “White Horse” shoe.

The excellent Just In Case has a nice pace and a great bouncy feel which was another love relatable number. Catherine amusingly shared that she is not a negative but a realistic person but her Prince Charming-like tales seem to end up bad!  

The lovely She'll Never Love You was co-penned with band member John. The questioning delicate score points to a heart filled with love a “remedy to fix my scars” but the chance for true love was lost by the partner whose feelings are not reciprocated, with a different plan reflected in the line: When you're lying there, Are you looking at her while you're thinking 'bout me?

During the love-themed set Catherine pointed out with humour that she “hadn’t been with boys” for the inspiration behind the songs and there is a observational and noticeable innocence on her EP.
New track Wild, in contrast hints at a guy who split up with his girlfriend of 5 years. The result, asking McGrath out on a date to a Coldplay concert but then spends the evening texting his ex!  

She went solo on the inquisitive Never Want To Fall In Love which rounded out her hugely enjoyable 30 minute set. It allowed the beautiful purity and tone of her vocal to shine. Every song she played was met with much enthusiasm. The Bournemouth crowd loved her with a throng of people at the merch desk afterwards buying a hardcopy of her EP. There was a long queue patiently waiting for a signing and chance to have a personal photo so many in fact that some would have been left disappointed with the interval ending.
Fan Photo:
After The Shires tour she is set to open for US star Kelsea Ballerini at Under The Bridge in London (Thurs 11 May 2017) and she seems like the perfect choice with further opportunities to win over yet more fans. Catherine is also included in the star line up for the Harvest Country Music Festival (Aug 26-27), headlined by Miranda Lambert.
Find her music on Amazon & iTunes
For further information

CONNECT with Catherine McGrath:
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The Shires:

1. Nashville Grey Skies 2. My Universe 3. Drive 4. Naked 5. Angels
6. All Over Again 7. Not Even Drunk Right Now 8. Beats to Your Rhythm 9. Save Me
10. Daddy's Little Girl 11. Brave 12. State Lines 13. Friday Night 14. Jekyll and Hyde
15. Islands In The Stream 16. I Just Wanna Love You 17. Tonight
18. Made in England 19. Other People's Things 20. A Thousand Hallelujahs

Charles Macdonald (Acoustic, electric guitar)
Joel Peat (electric guitar, steel)
Ollie Harding (drums)
Harry Gumery (bass guitar)
Band Photo showing off The Shires My Universe 2017 Merch T-shirts.

Who would have imagined that Big & Rich’s #11 2004 hit "Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy)" would be the build-up and walk on music for The Shires (Ben Earle and Crissie Rhodes hailing from Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire) accompanied by their 4-piece band. The show was billed as a sell-out though there were some empty spaces behind me and dotted around the theatre which seats approaching 1,500 people.

With 2 GOLD albums for both BRAVE (2015), and the fastest selling UK country set MY UNIVERSE (2016) safely under their belts they immediately felt the need to celebrate with the crowd. Crissie encouraged the audience to get to their feet from the get-go and they duly obliged for the opener Brit Country clap along anthem Nashville Grey Skies. 

Crissie Rhodes performs at Bournemouth Pavilion Theatre

FYI: Crissie wore a sparkly customized Needle and Thread dress (Website; Instagram) picked out for her by stylist Frank Strachan. Resembling the Pre-Spring-Summer China Rose Prom Dress from the 2016 Collection , the lace foliage artwork rocks blossoming English florals, depicted in soft pastel embroidery, with silver beading highlights.

The audience was a complete cross section of age groups, probably averaging 40-45, ranging from young teenage girls sat forward to the right of me dancing and singing along, to every word, of every song to the over 40-somethings busting out some questionable dance moves but all having a great time. “We are Country through and through” the duo have shared but there wasn’t a sea of cowboy hats to be seen. In fact I couldn’t spot a single one on the night apart from a new dodgy checked shirts. The crowd demographic I guess represents largely a BBC Radio 2 following, a station largely instrumental in raising the profiles of the highly talented Shires backing their numerous singles.

The feel-good factor was maintained with the glorious title cut My Universe which was "B" playlisted then upgraded to the "A" playlist by Radio 2 in September 2016.
Crissie asked the now seated fans, if there were any Kip Moore fans in the house (there were a few shouts) the co-writer of the upbeat "Drive" penned with Ben and Crissie.

Typically, laidback Ben Earle joked that he asked Crissie if he could appear unclothed in the video for Naked but wasn’t allowed to show it all! The track they said was one of their favourites on the 12-set MY UNIVERSE, and it is indeed magnificent and an absolute joy to behold.
Ben Earle performing at Bournemouth Pavilion Theatre April 23, 2017

Next up was their tasteful rendition of Angels the smash hit for Robbie Williams from 1997 and a song they performed live directly in front of the superstar on Chris Evans’ Radio 2 Breakfast show.

The July 2015 single All Over Again had the fans back on their feet followed by pop-infused foot tapper Not Even Drunk Right Now prompting a fun-filled (Friday Night’ Part 2) wo-ooh-oo-oh singalong. Next up was Beats to Your Rhythm which brings out the blending qualities of their vocals and allows for Shires trademark shouts of “hey-heys”.

Ben gave a shout-out to Nashville Christian songwriter Brain White (“Watching You” Rodney Atkins #1 Song, 2007 Most Played Country Song, “In Case You Don't Remember” Jason Aldean, “Aftermath” Rascal Flatts) regarding “Save Me” which certainly has the ‘authentic’ country factor feel. It was penned whilst “going through deep stuff” highlighting and drawing attention to personal fears and failings. It was first showcased at the Glastonbury Festival when The Shires headlined the Acoustic Stage in June 2016. White was seen on BBC 4 documentary The Shires: New Country which shined the light on the rise of the UKs most popular country/pop spearheading group.

Crissie spoke about how the beautiful Daddy’s Little Girl (co-written with Jeff Cohen and Victoria Banks), one of the standouts on MY Universe, has reached out to so many people. The addition of some faint steel guitar by Joel Peat made this magical.
Rhodes co-penned this poignant score with the other writers unaware that Crissie had lost her father to cancer 20 years ago. Later in the set Ben paid her a tribute by saying how brave Crissie is singing the song each night on the tour.
Title cut Brave is certainly a cut that made many people take notice, including their label Decca UK.

Couple Steve and Jane in the audience received a callout by Ben as State Lines was their first dance at their wedding one year ago, though they did not take up the offer to dance on The Pavilion stage.
Ben Earle performing at
Bournemouth Pavilion Theatre April 23, 2017
Although it was a Sunday night with a new work week pending, Friday Night proved to be another real crowd pleaser.

Jekyll and Hyde is a track I have never taken to though live it takes on a new dimension and the audience were more than happy to hear the rocky workout. It does provide an opportunity to introduce the admirable band members, with solos, who were given the spotlight having been at the back on the darkened stage.

I am pleased to report that the sound was great throughout the entire set and Ben remarked that their sound engineer Kye (?) at the back of the hall got dehydrated in 40-degree heat when they played in Australia, taking in CMC Rocks Festival, in March.
Today’s modern country acts make the strong case about the importance of the story-telling aspect even though purists question the legitimization of the sound. It should therefore be a given that fans can hear the words, sung so the message is not lost.

Adding some sparkle to the room Crissie requested fans to hold their phones aloft during a cover of Dolly and Kenny Rogers well-known duet Islands in the Stream. It’s something Ben & Crissie love performing and their take was included in the Radio 2 project Sounds of the 80s
 For me their next song I Just Wanna Love You in the 20-strong set is in a different league and was the show highlight. It remains my favourite Shires number and completely floored me when I first heard it.

Tonight” is aimed at crowd participation, split up singing two separate lines. What has become a show tradition and without any prompting the crowd take it upon themselves to keep singing “Tonight” with the “woo-hoo’s” as the band exit the stage and continuing until they return.

The Shires tweeted:
The Shires promptly obliged with three more numbers starting with Made in England which they didn’t perform in Scotland and have only played once in Wales! LinesRainy days and milk in my tea” brought nods as did “There's nothing like a Friday night fish and chips” by those who may have visited Harry Ramsden’s restaurant down on the seafront!

Things slowed down with Other People's Things, co-written with Scottish singer-songwriter Nina Nesbitt. The song it seems strangely came to fruition after Ben had one to many Fireballs (A Nashville whiskey and cinnamon mix) and suffered the consequences on the return flight from Nashville. Crissie’s vocals excel on this song and Ben said “everything she sings just comes to life”.

The night rounded out with the joyous energetic A Thousand Hallelujahs with its pounding rhythm which is becoming a fan favourite with arms thrust, all around, into the air, embracing the uplifting anthemic track.

Having been to numerous country shows in the past did I come away feeling I’d been to a “country” concert? At times yes, but on the whole probably not. Does it matter? Not really because it was a very enjoyable evening and the music was great.
The Shires certainly have and are setting the bar at a level which other British acts can only aspire to achieve.

Adrian Clark
Country Routes News

The Shires have 7 more dates on the My Universe tour followed by some Summer festival stops:
Mon 24th April 2017 - G-Live, Guildford (London Road, GU1 2AA)
Tue 25th April 2017 - Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry (University of Warwick, Gibbet Hill Road, CV4 7AL) £22.00, £27.50, £35.75 £35.75
Thu 27th April 2017 - Cliffs Pavilion, Southend (Station Road, SS0 7RA)
Fri 28th April 2017 - Leas Cliff Hall, Folkestone (The Leas, Kent CT20 2DZ) Tickets £29.15 - £40.15 plus £2.85 transaction fee*
Sun 30th April 2017 - Theatre Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham (Theatre Square, NG1 5ND)
Mon 1st May 2017 - Regent Theatre, Ipswich (3 ST Helens Street, IP4 1HE)
Tue 2nd May 2017 - London Palladium, Westminster (Argyll Street, London, W1F 7TF) £23.65 (£20.00 Ticket + £3.65 Fees) & £40.15 (£35.00 Ticket + £5.15 Fees)

Thurs 8 June 2017 - Sun 11 June 2017 - Isle of Wight Festival, Newport
Sun 30 July 2017 - Taverham Hall Preparatory School, Norwich (ENTER ARENA via Sandy Lane (Costessey Rd), NR8 6TA) Event Doors Open at 2:00PM; Starts at 2:15PM | Ticket Price: £35.00 - £70.00*
Fri 11 August 2017 - Kelvingrove Bandstand, Glasgow, Summer Nights
Sat 12 August 2017 - St Fagans National History Museum, Cardiff
August 26-27, 2017 - Harvest Country Music Festival, Ireland

For more information
CONNECT with The Shires:
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