The Shires – Liverpool Echo Arena – 22/01/16

Review by Oli NG

Formed only in May 2013, Country Duo “The Shires”, hailing from Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire were now supporting The Corrs, on their “White Light” Arena Tour.
Tonight was the first time I had been to Liverpool’s Echo Arena, and I was surprised at how small it was compared to the Manchester Arena and London’s O2. As the lights went down, the first people on stage were the backing band. They began playing their instruments and were quickly joined by Crissie Rhodes and Ben Earle, The Shires. The band opened with their track “All Over Again”, which was upbeat and uplifting, the perfect song to kick off a support slot set where you are playing to people who haven’t heard you before. The Shires had no problem in winning over The Corrs’ audience immediately. Credit must also go to the band’s Sound Engineer, who had the mix spot on from the moment the first chord was hit, as from past experience I have found arena sound to be quite ropey even for larger acts.

The Shires rattled through songs from their 2015 debut album “Brave” which, as mentioned by Ben Earle on stage, shot into the Top 10 and also went Gold last year. This included tracks such as “Nashville Grey Skies”, “Jekyll & Hyde” and the aptly named “Friday Night”. All of these songs were uplifting and you couldn’t help sing along whether you knew the words or not. However The Shires did bring the tone down a little with songs such as “State Lines”, “Brave” and a superb chilled out cover of “Islands In The Stream”, a version which Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton would have been proud of. I was expecting there to be a lot of chatting, or hustling and bustling whilst people made their way to their seats as they entered the arena, which I was concerned would ruin the intimacy of these tracks, but there wasn’t. You could have heard a pin drop. The whole Arena was fixed on The Shires, and they were taking in every note of every song, no mean feat for any support act.

As a Musician myself, I’m a big believer in that “The artist is as only as good as their band”. Springsteen wouldn’t be anywhere without The E Street Band or Tom Petty wouldn’t be anywhere without The Heartbreakers, and I think The Shires’ backing band deserve a lot of credit for their contribution to the live show. The 3 guys looked smart, had great stage presence and showed they were quality musicians.

This was my first time seeing The Shires and I had thought before the show that seeing them in such a large venue may not be the same as if I’d have gone to see them in a more intimate room. However, The Shires made Liverpool’s Echo Arena their own, and presented a superbly put together and executed 30 minute support slot, and certainly got the crowd warmed up for The Corrs. I would go as far to say, that if you were a neutral person at the show, you could have been told they were the Headline Act and you would have had no reason to not believe it.

I will definitely be seeing The Shires again, and I hope it won’t be long till I see them playing their own shows at such large venues as the Echo Arena.