The last week of The Shires’ My Universe tour kicked off in the North East. This is their third time visiting The Sage: first time was the concourse, then they headlined the yearly Americana Festival last year and Monday saw them headline their own tour. Each time the crowd was raring to go even before the support act. On this occasion it was Virginian born Canaan Smith who really got the crowd pumped with sing-alongs and changed lyrics to the town he performs in, which connects with this Gateshead crowd. The mood was set.
The Shires are then ready to roll with their added band of four taking to the stage with a pumping intro, before Crissie and Ben enter. There have been many Monday night concerts where the crowd have been lack-lustre but a Shires crowd is an excited crowd, and starting with Nashville Grey Skies we kick off with the perfect sing-along. From the get-go Crissie and Ben are engaged and personal with the audience by saying it is great to be back in Gateshead and also how cold it is! But even when they slow it down with Naked this crowd keeps the atmosphere warm with those in the pit swaying along. This continues as they cover the Robbie Williams hit Angels, however with The Shires edge to it.
The thing that strikes you about not only Crissie and Ben but the whole band, is their element of fun. Although the spotlight is on the duo, the four guys with them definitely help with the upbeat vibe as we dip from first album to second album, with All Over Again to Not Even Drunk Right Now and Beats To Your Rhythm. Then things get serious and they take it back to the very beginning when it was just Crissie and Ben. Cue band exit and Ben on guitar as we are told about him becoming a new Dad, and just as we think we are going to get a happy song about that, Crissie then tells us about when she lost her Dad. There’s not a single dry eye in the house as they perform Daddy’s Little Girl and the stage is filled with blue lights and smoke. Each night Crissie performs this and the lyrics, “Used to wrap my hands around his little finger. Turns out he was wrapped around mine,” both warms and breaks your heart all at the same time.
How they even continue after this number is beyond anyone, but they hold it together and the band return, keeping it mellow with Brave and Statelines. But The Shires cannot leave you sad for too long, and help dry those tears up with Friday Night, as more and more people get on their feet while the dirty country blues vibes take over for a few numbers. Keeping the fun in the night, the crowd is divided with one side singing with Ben and the other with Crissie for Tonight. As we are told it was the last song it would have been the perfect ending, but the crowd are not ready for it to end as chants and foot stomps to the tune of Tonight bring The Shires back and they agree we deserve more.
Made In England is the reward that gets a great sing-along from the audience, before welcoming back two guitarists for Other People’s Things (co-written with Nina Nesbitt), which is another heart-tugging part of the night. But The Shires dare not leaving a crowd like that and with A Thousand Hallelujahs, the whole band is dancing the night away with everybody in Hall One. If the lights did not come on to call it a day, it could have been a big country hoe-down lock-in!
Words & Image by Victoria Ling