Friday night’s musical escapades took me to Guildford for talented country pop duo The Ward Thomas’ hometown gig. I walked into the atrium; I got myself a glass of rose and headed to the circle where I was seated.
The gig kicked off to a marching drum beat mixed in sync with the pulsing lights, building the excitement for the country music to kick in. It was beautifully opened with their faultless a cappella vocals harmonising effortlessly echoing through the auditorium, it had everyone mesmerised, and all eyes were on them.
From the get go, you could see their twin sisterly bond making the onstage chemistry so natural and easy going. Next they eased into their first full track “Boomerang”, they sang in perfect unison the disco feel lighting projecting and flashing into the crowd.
“Small Town Gossip” followed, the warm orange lighting transitioning into an ocean blue; it was colder and darker to match with the song’s theme. Their backdrop then came to life like a night sky, the lighting rising to a warm yellow, twinkling lights shimmering across the stage fitting with their genre and personalities perfectly.
They then introduced their new single “Material” an upbeat ballad, Lizzy took to the keys as her sister, Catherine walked towards her to stand by her side, their chemistry shining through as their harmonious vocals intertwined. It was so personal as though the audience was listening in on two sisters jamming and singing away in their own home.
The ballad and lights were then uplifted into an instrumental breakdown, the red lighting complimenting the feisty and punchy musicianship from their talented band.
This then tastefully flowed into the melodic “Good In You”, their sleek and silvery vocals represented a lullaby, the double bass filled the space creating a truly magical moment. They introduced an exclusive performance of their new material; performed acoustically “Breathe In” was a twinkling piano ballad, the stripped back track complimented beautifully with simple white spotlights.
Their graceful vocals continued into “Cartwheels” a relatable song for anyone whose relationship might be in turmoil “I’ve been doing Cartwheels, anything to save us, anything to make you notice me”.
With a combination of the string style synths from the Nord, the additional acoustic guitars and the raspy tones of their voices, it reflected those pop influences of Carley Rae Jepsen and Rachel Platten. So there is no doubt as to why this was chosen as their single and title track from their Number One album.
“Guilty Flowers” was an upbeat and fun performance which represented strong American country music down to a tee while still remaining profoundly British. It had that pop twist and early day Taylor Swift feels sprinkled all over it. Inspired by the Dixie Chick’s tour, they bought their band down from the back and set-up an acoustic style formation towards the front of the stage giving a much more intimate experience for those in standing.
The arrangement also included a double bass and ukulele, the musicians plucking the strings and the soft percussion from the snare and kick combined gave it a funky vibe like something fresh out of Footloose.
The girls represented strong female role models and with just a little more audience schmoozing they have the potential to represent the stage presence of any country starlet such as Carrie Underwood, but this will only come with age and as their career propels, which I have no doubt they will be responsible for putting country music on the UK map.
They stayed at the forefront with their four piece multi-instrumentalist band for a modern country spun cover of “Shine” by Years and Years. A head nodding, foot tapping country jam followed with “I Believe In You”, it had that fast paced jive feel the acoustic guitars driving the song forward.
I even caught the security guard moving along. This is where they really got the audience involved, splitting the room in half, one side named after Catherine’s dog ‘Twiggy’ and the other after Lizzy’s dog ‘Poppet’, the audience mimicking the twins with call and response.
What really sold it for me was the passion for the music from their fan base. Being up in the circle I was able to watch from above, everyone in standing was fully focused on the twins with only the odd phone light for videos.
Whether it was the generation of their fan base, which at their hometown gig was mainly older accompanied by their young children, or just the fact they were in awe of the band’s musicianship, there was hardly anyone watching the gig through their snapchat screens. Don’t get me wrong I’m just as guilty for this but it was certainly a breath of fresh air.
Rather than focusing on all aspects of their gig at every moment, I took the last fifteen minutes to just take in the atmosphere as the audiences contentment radiated through the room. The gig left the audience wanting more as they returned on stage to cheers from their fans.
Lizzy came in early by mistake but played it off well as she had connected so positively with her audience, it was laughed off as she said “Well I bloody messed that up didn’t I” portraying that girl next door feel and down to earth personalities.
They then erupted in correct sync this time, into a beautifully calming encore, finishing on such a high. The show left me with a warm glow of musical happiness, and although so seemingly British, it had me wanting to catch the first flight out to Nashville to soak in those modern country feels all day every day.
Words by Jodie Brunning