Cecily Sheppard

Ward Thomas @ the Arts Club

I love a bit of country and as a twin myself – albeit with a brother who gave up the guitar aged about ten – I was always going to find some kind of musical affinity with Ward Thomas. Put simply, Ward Thomas are 22 year old twin sisters Lizzy and Catherine, who are pulling country music out of America and using the modern British eye to great success – their crossover album, Cartwheels, hit the UK number 1 spot just last month. And so, when the opportunity arose to review their gig at Liverpool’s Arts Club, I’d have been a fool to not jump on the chance.

By the time I’d hiked my way up to the Arts Club’s Loft (literally one of my favourite venues in the entire city), it was already quite cosy with fans crowded round for the support act, Una Healy. In not realising it was club night at the Arts Club, which meant earlier set times, I missed the first bit of Healy’s set, but what I did catch made me seriously consider why I hadn’t listened to any of her solo material before. Una’s best known as a fifth of girl group, The Saturdays, but she suits singer-songwriterdom just as well, possibly better. Regardless, she was an excellent support act to Ward Thomas, oozing that vulnerable-narration-mixed-with-energetic-acoustic-guitar vibe.

In the gap between acts, it became clear that the sold-out show was about to become seriously cosy as everyone gravitated back from the bar towards the stage. What also became clear was that maybe that Buzzfeed quiz that told me my life choices made me ‘an estimated age of 43’ wasn’t far off – the audience was surprisingly but decisively middle-aged, which, as someone who’s seen 5 Seconds of Summer live, was not something the gig side of my brain was used to. That being said, the vibe was just as anticipatory as any other gig I’ve been to. If the rest of crowd is buzzing with excitement, you buzz with it – and as we waited for Ward Thomas, I was buzzing.

As Ward Thomas took to the stage, it was obvious that this was going to be a gig that you couldn’t possibly hate – from opening track ‘Good On You’, the duo were seemingly effortless and relatable. Perhaps some might pull up the pair on a slight lack of presence and ‘onstage banter’ (is that a technical term yet?). But if you ask me, sometimes the music just speaks for itself, and this was certainly one such time. Ward Thomas slid between the tear-jerking and the upbeat, all the while performing a cohesive and bold yet vulnerable set. Some of the little onstage chat came with the introduction of ‘The Good and the Right’, as a tribute to Sir Terry Wogan, who was the first broadcaster to play the track on radio. This was followed by a second radio shout out, with the girls joking that the next tune was “the first cool song [they’d] ever written” because it was their first airplay on BBC Radio One. That track was ‘Guilty Flowers’, one of my favourites from their recent hit album – acoustic guitar carries the vocal narration, with an added edge from the gutsy drum beat that kicks in after the first verse. As individual vocalists, Lizzy and Catherine both carry clout, but it’s when the two voices come together that Ward Thomas really create magic. That sisterly harmony is just something else. And, if I’m honest, it’s better showcased live than recorded, but that’s a testament to the pair’s killer songwriting and live performance ability.

If you get the chance to see Ward Thomas in a small venue, snap it up before the intimacy is interrupted. And in terms of the overall gig, I think the double encore speaks for itself.

Feature Image: Liverpool crowd pic from Ward Thomas Music on Facebook

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