The Shires

Venue: Middlesbrough Empire
Town: Middlesbrough
Date: 14/10/15

The Middlesbrough Empire was a new venue to me, which I always find both interesting and exciting. I have to say though, whilst the sound was very good throughout the gig, it felt more like a nightclub in need of a refurb and I didn't enjoy having to stand for the whole night; sore feet and seeing nothing over throngs of tall people isn't conducive to a great night for me, though I appreciate others enjoy that setup.

Support for the evening came from Jonathan Jeremiah, a new name to me, but one I will certainly be looking up. He had a great stage presence, confident but laid back and built a good rapport with the audience. Vocally, he demonstrated a good range, as he introduced us to some of his material, one of which I'm sure I'd heard previously on radio. There were occasions when his voice was reminiscent of Ed Sheeran, smooth but edgy.

Having first seen The Shires at SummerTyne at Sage Gateshead in July and having been more than impressed, I was excited to have the chance to see They delivered a fabulous performance, in which they sounded even better live than they had at The Sage ( whilst they were excellent that night, it was mentioned that Crissie had a sore throat. I would never have known, until hearing them tonight; vocally, she went to another level) Accompanied by a very talented band, the pair sang both separately and in perfect harmony. Unexpected inclusions was a wonderful cover of The Corrs' Runaway. There was endless banter with the audience, Ben announcing that from the number of people singing along he suspected that most of their CDs were sold in the north-east. It is very apparent that they are quite overwhelmed by and very grateful for the response they have had to their music. Their more than willing audience were indulged in a live performance of most of the CD, Nashville Grey Skies, State Lines, Made In England, Brave and Friday Night (which Crissie declared could be any night, really) all had the audience tapping their toes and most dancing. A wonderful highlight was them bringing Nashville to us. in the songwriter style adopted there, they all moved to e front of the stage to form a semi circle, from which they gave us our very first introductions to several new songs. It is clear beyond doubt that their next CD will be every bit as good as their first! Tonight, typically, got everyone up and joining in with the woah oh ohs, which continued as a chant until they returned to the stage for an encore, seeming genuinely touched and happy. I have to admit, there was something very special in the air as we all chanted them back out. Indeed, Ben,as he does, took footage on his phone which has since appeared on Instagram! Suffice it to say that The Shires impressed me more than I thought possible after SummerTyne and for a while I even forgot that my feet were throbbing. It seems they just keep getting better and better, whilst remaining very down to earth and genuine. I am now more excited than ever to see what their second CD and the next part of their musical journey holds in store. I'll be eagerly awaiting their live return to the North East, too!

Helen Mitchell

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