Twin sister duo Ward Thomas are one of the leading acts on the UK country music scene, with their second album Cartwheels becoming the first by a UK country act to reach number one. So far they’ve had a whirlwind 2017, including opening this year’s Country to Country Festival and releasing their first EP A Shorter Story, which reworked five pop songs as acoustic tracks. Currently they’re in the middle of their nationwide Cartwheels Tour, including a stop at London’s Shepherds Bush Empire last night.
The set opened with the venue in complete darkness as the girls sang the opening lines of their current single, Material a capella. They’re known for their harmonies and I thought this introduction worked really well by creating a great atmosphere and sense of anticipation. From there they launched into the uptempo ‘Dirt and Gold’ and ‘Boomerang’ from their current album.
One of the things I particularly liked about Ward Thomas’ performance was the balance between more uptempo songs and slower numbers. Although the duo are touring with a live band, which gave tracks like When It’s Not Me and Material a rockier vibe than the album versions, they also allowed their vocals to shine on Almost Easy and Good On You, which really conveyed the emotion in the songs. They also borrowed from the Dixie Chicks with an acoustic section, bringing the band out from behind their instruments to sing Proof.
The highlight of the show for me were the two new songs, which showed both sides of the group’s style. Breathe In was a gorgeous, delicate, stripped-back ballad which held the audience absolutely spellbound, whilst the more uptempo I Believe In You had a much more typical country style. They also did a very strong cover of Years and Years’ Shine, which showed they can take on different styles of songs and put their own stamp on it.
Throughout the set Lizzie and Catherine did a great job of engaging the crowd, encouraging them to sing Happy Birthday to their manager and having a harmony sing-off. It was clear they were really enjoying performing with the band, which in turn made the audience even more enthusiastic (not that they needed much encouraging to be honest!)
For the finale, the girls sang the opening track from Cartwheels, Carry You Home, and it’s safe to say it ended with a bang. The audience went absolutely wild for the song and setting off a paper cannon just added to the sheer fun and enthusiasm. They then came back on to perform Push For The Stride from their debut album From Where We Stand.
Overall I thought Ward Thomas put on a great show. Their voices sounded great individually and together, particularly on the harmonies, their energy was infectious and the set list really showcased their ability to perform uptempo numbers just as well as their slower songs. I’ll definitely be coming back to see them next time they tour.
Set list: 1. Material/Dirt and Gold 2. Boomerang 3. When It’s Not Me 4. Material 5. Almost Easy 6. Good On You 7. Breathe In 8. Cartwheels 9. Guilty Flowers. 10. A Town Called Ugley 11. Proof 12. Happy Birthday 13. Shine (Years and Years cover) 14. I Believe In You 15. Who I’m Not 16. Lose Me 17. Carry You Home Encore: 18. Push For The Stride Performance Date: Wednesday 10th May 2017