The Shires – Sage Gateshead – 6-12-16

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I was already very much looking forward to this performance, little expecting it would end up exceeding my expectations. Singer songwriter, Chloe Chadwick, who has resided in the UK for the past six years, was performing a free set on the concourse, prior to Sage 1 opening. Accompanied by James and Mark on guitar and keys, Chloe had those in the area in the palm of her hand. People were stopping to listen in the cafe, on the floor, on the balconies and up the stairs. Having seen her perform several times, this was the best she has ever sounded vocally, and the most relaxed I have seen her. She played some songs from her EP, including ‘Settle Your Heart’ and ‘Feels Like Home’ alongside some from her upcoming debut album, including ‘Love Will Find A Way’. She had the crowd singing along with fabulous covers of Lady Antebellum’s ‘Need You Now’ and an unexpected but brilliant choice, Joni Mitchell’s ‘Big Yellow Taxi’. Judging from the queue to buy EPs, I think it’s fair to say she gained new fans and I think that with her album next year big things are in store for her. Watch out for her name in 2017!

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Canaan Smith was a new name to me, although how I haven’t heard him until now baffles me, especially as he has had a Number 1 in the US. He hails from Williamsburg, VA, a small town which I have actually visited. From the first few notes he had the audience hanging on his every word, as he told stories of his town, his life and the very moving story of his brother who died, inspiring the achingly sad title song of his CD, ‘Bronco’. Throughout his set, he came across as incredibly excited to be playing here and extremely grateful for the experiences it is affording him. You couldn’t not warm to his personality. With a genuine country sound, at times remiscent of Jason Aldean and Brad Paisley. Stand out tracks, though it is hard to choose, included ‘Stuck’, ‘Stompin’ Grounds’, ‘Bronco’ and ‘Love You Like That’ (which reminded me of being in Mississippi drinking the muscadine wine about which he was singing.) He also encouraged us to sing with him a verse and chorus of ‘Iris’ by The Goo Goo Dolls, saying he wouldn’t leave the stage before we knew who he was and he saw all of us, to create a real moment together. As he reached the chorus, we shared a magical moment together as we all sang in unison. For me, it was very much like that magical moment at SummerTyne, where you hear an artist for the first time and know you are experiencing something very special. He invited people to say hi and shake hands after the show, an offer which dozens accepted and he seemed genuinely moved. He even upgraded handshakes to hugs for some of us. He told us he is back to tour next year and I really hope he is back in the area. Big things are ahead for him I feel.

This is now the third time I have seen the Shires; this time they are promoting their new My Universe CD. With a Shires backdrop and a blackboard with the tour hashtag and Gateshead on the back of the piano, it seemed from the outset they were keen for us to feel involved.

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Opening with the well loved Nashville ‘Grey Skies’, The Shires were clearly happy to be back at Sage and excited to share their new album and news of their recent Big Machine (Taylor Swift) USA record label signing, with us, all the while assuring us they will never forget their roots or the fans who got them to this point. There was lots of chat and banter throughout the set, both with each other and with the audience. Their personalities and vocals filled the room in equal measure. Backed by a tight and very talented band, who knew just how far to go, I felt that Crissie and Ben are challenging themselves more and more vocally and experimenting as they go. Their harmonies are nothing short of exquisite; at times, truly breathtaking.

During the course of their extremely high energy set, they played a range of songs from their two albums. New songs included ‘My Universe’, ‘Not Even Drunk Right Now’, ‘Naked’, ‘Save Me’, ‘Common Language’ and radio hit ‘A Thousand Hallelujiahs’. The achingly beautiful ‘Daddy’s Little Girl’, written by Crissie about her father who passed away when she was just eight, left not a dry eye in the room. A true country song in every sense. From their debut, ‘Brave’ we get ‘I Just Wanna Love You’, ‘Tonight’, the stunning and very clever lyrically, ‘State Lines’, ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ and ‘Friday Night’, which turned into a Monday night party!

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After a very long and loud applause, at which the pair seemed genuinely touched, they returned to deliver a stunning version of ‘Other People’s Things’; a great example of painting a picture with words. They then invited us to sing ‘Made in England’ with them, thanking us for sounding beautiful, afterwards.

I think we all could have carried on longer, but sadly there is a curfew. I think we all left the room saying a thousand Hallelujiahs for a magical night in which three stunning artists united us all through the common language of music. I honestly feel like I experienced the joy of SummerTyne in December and I don’t think I was alone…

Photographer – Adam Kennedy

Helen Mitchell

Helen Mitchell

My Dad introduced me to country music at a very early age; the first songs I ever knew the words to were by Wille Nelson and John Denver. My first live concert was Neil Sedaka when I was 8.At 10, I saw John Denver and fell in love with live music. I love reviewing and have done so for several outlets. Eclectic in my taste, I especially love Americana, singer songwriters, country and roots music.
Helen Mitchell

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