The Shires – Brighton Dome – 10th June 2018

Photo by Dan Whitehouse

In support of latest album Accidentally On Purpose, The Shires took to the stage at the Brighton Dome for the penultimate night of their current UK tour, bringing their pop-inspired country sound to one of Brighton’s best venues. As a seated event, this show was really all about the audience relishing in the soundscapes, though that didn’t stop many taking to their feet to dance and sing-along.

Before the band took to the stage, the audience were treated with support slots from both Sinead Burgess and Andy Brown.

Sinead Burgess was the first to perform, a 27-year-old Australian who has been actively recording music since 2007. Despite her vast branches of pop influences in her studio work, Burgess kept the set stripped back in order to win over the crowd, keeping in line with The Shires. As an opening support, Burgess brought a great warmth to the evening, making a few light hearted jokes about the British accent and sharing the experiences that inspired her songs. One particular story that inspired her track ‘Ramblin’ Man’ involved her visiting a guitar shop. The experience outlined the sexism women can still experience as a singer/songwriter, and how she was told how “Good” she was for going to a guitar shop with her boyfriend, despite the fact she was shopping for herself. She even managed to get the crowd standing and chanting back her lyrics “It’s gonna be alright”, hugely impressive for someone who seemed a little in awe of the opportunity.

Second support came from Andy Brown who is also the lead singer of Lawson. Brown wowed the crowd with his delicate vocals as he projected his first solo efforts since taking a break from the band. The stage setup was just as minimal and musically focussed as Sinead Burgess’ had been. It was exciting to see him taking such a different direction to his pop band, opting more towards the country sound of The Shires. Highlight from the set was his track ‘Landslide’ which actually features Crissie Rhodes of The Shires. Brown explained how the track was inspired by the awkwardness he had experienced bumping into an ex-girlfriend after a considerable amount of time, a form of therapy for expressing the love he once had and how hard it is for him to brush it off.

After a short intermission, it was time for The Shires to take to the stage, and despite the combination of two interesting support acts, there was a definite surge in energy once they appeared. The auditorium went black, signifying the band were about to begin and a large LED sign depicting the band’s name could be seen hanging at the top of the stage. The Shires duo Ben Earle and Crissie Rhodes could be seen looking smart but casually dressed, while the colourful lighting and powerful vocals said everything they needed to. It’s rare to find, but The Shires’ live performance sounds better than they do on record and their vocal range and abilities synced perfectly and beautifully throughout the night. During the set, The Shires spoke of the influences behind their songs and told the story of their hit track ‘Accidentally On Purpose’. Crissie described how during their time in Nashville she’d met a guy she’d become particularly fond of and, hilariously, as she was reciting her feelings to Ben he was already jotting down song ideas. After hearing everything she had to say, he turned to her and said they should make a track about it.

The Shires, Andy Brown and Sinead Burgess were all interesting and entertaining in their own right and it was exciting listening to music by three acts whose work is so personally inspired by their own lives and experiences. There was a lot of talk of Nashville from each of the performers, a clear hub of inspiration for country-inspired songwriters. For a seated gig, there was definitely a lot of atmosphere and, more importantly, heart in each act’s performance. Seeing fans in a large venue such as Brighton Dome, full of people focussing on enjoying music rather than some huge visual show, was a different but enjoyable experience and it’s great to see bands such as The Shires offering something a little different to a large capacity venue.

Dan Whitehouse