LIVE REVIEW: River Town Festival; Ward Thomas and The Shires

Last night (July 14th) saw the best of UK country music descend onto the city of Bristol for a night of amazing live music as part of the River Town Festival which is taking place over the weekend in conjunction with the Bristol Americana Weekend.

The live show which featured the two record breaking duo’s Ward Thomas and The Shires co-headlining went ahead with an electric atmosphere despite the change of venue at the last minute. The concert was originally due to take place at the Colston Hall but unforeseen circumstances meant it had to be moved to the Bristol O2 Academy across the road.

The evening started with a barnstorming set from Ward Thomas, who had the packed crowd in the palm of their hands with their easy going stage presence and spine tingling vocal harmonies. Their fantastic performance included a number of their biggest hits including the likes of ‘Guilty Flowers‘, ‘Boomerang‘, ‘Material‘, ‘Cartwheels‘, ‘Town Called Ugley‘, and ‘Carry You Home‘. All of which were received with massive cheers and crowd sing-a-longs.

Cartwheels‘ album tracks such as ‘When It’s Not Me‘, ‘Dirt and Gold‘, and ‘You Lose Me‘, were delivered with sublime precision from Catherine and Lizzy, and the capacity crowd sang along passionately to every lyric.

Their electric set also included two new songs; ‘Breathe In’, and ‘I Believe In You’. The simply stunning, stripped back ‘Breathe In’ silenced the raucous crowd as everyone soaked up the heartfelt lyrics and the girls’ sublime vocal ability. While the folk infused ‘I Believe In You’ had the Bristol audience in full voice singing and dancing along. The new uptempo track was met with almost as loud reception as their massive hit single ‘Carry You Home’ which is very impressive when you consider that the song is brand new and has only been sang live by the twins on tour so far. Both new tracks will feature on Ward Thomas’ third album which will be released next year.

During ‘I Believe In You’ the room was split in two for a harmony competition with Catherine jokingly complaining that Lizzy always wins because she has “the easier part” to sing. Both sides of the audience were asked to sing the lines ‘you’re on your way, yeah you’re, which they happily obliged and sang on top of their lungs.

The Hampshire twins left the stage to deafening cheers and applause, and certainly gained a host of new fans.

After a short interval it was time for for the second co-headlining act to hit the stage; The Shires. The atmosphere once again reached fever-pitch as Ben and Crissie entered the stage to massive cheers.

Their lively set featured their very first single ‘Nashville Grey Skies‘, along with more recent hits including the likes of ‘My Universe‘, and ‘A Thousand Hallelujahs‘ plus older tracks such as ‘Jekyll and Hyde‘ . All of which were met with loud applause and passionate audience participation.

They brought things to a beautiful standstill for ‘Daddy’s Little Girl‘ which is all about the relationship between Crissie and her late father who sadly passed away almost 21-years ago. Despite the song having such a personal meaning, Crissie delivered a note perfect delivery as the auditorium fell silent to listen to the poignant and heartfelt track.

Things got back loud later on during their raucous, foot stamping set, The Shires lit up the room when they asked the audience to hold up their phones for a performance of the Dolly Parton hit ‘Islands In The Stream’. The Bristol audience sang every single word, with Crissie saying she wanted to take the “whole audience on tour”.

The audience participation was a great part of The Shires’ performance with everyone feeling like they were part of the band. Especially for ‘A Thousand Hallelujahs’ and ‘Friday Night‘.

The Shires’ set was passionate and vocally sublime as they showcased their talents. Their stage presence is up there with the best and they had the crowd eating out of their hands with ease. They no doubt won a whole new bunch of fans.

The entire River Town concert was immense and the Bristol audience was one of the loudest I have ever been a part of. It was a fantastic evening all round with both duo’s highlighting the brilliant country music coming out of the UK right now.


After the show I managed to meet Ben and Crissie, they were both very sweet and down to earth. They chatted for a while and happily posed for photos, and signed tickets. Unfortunately I missed Catherine and Lizzy by around 20 minutes, but they had both cheerfully stopped for fans lucky enough to get out of  the packed venue in time to catch them leaving.

Were you at the River Town Festival last night to see Ward Thomas and The Shires? What was your favorite part of the show? Let us know over on Twitter @CelebMix

Written by Laura Klonowski

Qualified music journalist! Writing single/album/live reviews, feature articles, interviews, and news pieces.
Twitter: @cherylssoldier1
Instagram: @musicandtournews