LIVE REVIEW: WARD THOMAS @ Sage Gateshead (06.04.19) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

Narc. Magazine Online

Reliably informed

Image by Damian Fry

In five years, Ward Thomas have gone from having a debut album peak outside the Top 40 to selling out Sage Gateshead and having only The Shires eclipse them as the UK’s most popular modern country pop act. The emphasis is most definitely on the pop on new album Restless Minds, and they open with new song Lie Like Me, setting the stall out early. Flourishes of acoustic guitar and a tight backing band pave the way for the sisters’ lush melodies, all easy on the ear and, bizarrely, sounding not totally unlike Idlewild’s A Little Discourage. Bigger cheers are reserved for tracks from their breakthrough 2016 UK chart-topping record Cartwheels, like the heartbreak of Guilty Flowers and the positivity of that album’s title track. Only one more track from that hit album is aired, the upbeat euphoric anthem Carry You Home which closes a show where Ward Thomas prefer to look to the present more than the past.

Their backing band sit it out for an early set acoustic spot that features the aforementioned Cartwheels and new song No Fooling Me. From there on the set pretty much hits a level and remains there. There’s no real cartwheels on radio friendly unit shifters like One More Goodbye or It’s Not Just Me and there’s nothing to really keep the mind all that restless either. But there’s a certain charm and warmth to the innocence and positivity on a bitter cold Gateshead Saturday night that stops Ward Thomas from ever becoming dull or dour. They do embrace their not quite as successful past with a medley of The Good And The Right, Town Called Ugly and Push For The Stride from debut album From Where We Stand; the fact that the three songs can blend so seamlessly together without too much effort perhaps suggesting that major label sheen and gloss has had an effect on the duo’s commercial appeal.

Ultimately though, as with fellow UK country-poppers The Shires, it comes down to whether or not you like this style of country music. There isn’t the roots of Willie Nelson, there’s no questioning the greater powers like Johnny Cash and there’s no challenging the lesser powers of politics like the Dixie Chicks. What there is, is a fun leave-your-troubles-at-the-door feel-good vibe, and jeez, don’t we all need a bit of that right now?

 

Like this story? Share it!