Ward Thomas are two sisters from Portsmouth, Catherine and Lizzy, who are one of the UK’s leading country performers – country with a big pop inflection. They released their third album, “Restless Minds”, this year. It’s bursting with infectious pop tunes – the country roots are still there, and show themselves especially in the ballads; but this is a pitch for the mainstream (bearing in mind that their previous album, “Cartwheels” did get to No 1 in the charts!) In that respect they are like a lot of American country artists; and, back home, my favourite, Catherine McGrath, is moving the same way. I saw the band at Latitude in 2017, on the main stage at 2pm. They put on a good show, but it’s hard to make that much of an impression in those circumstances.
They played the Shepherd’s Bush Empire last week. It was the day after Amyl and the Sniffers at Heaven. Talk about a contrast! I went with some friends who were keen on the band. I wasn’t really sure what to expect – I found the new album likeable, but maybe just a little bland, a bit shiny, for my tastes. Especially the more up-tempo numbers. But live, I have to say, they were excellent. Catherine and Lizzy are an engaging duo and they had a very slick band behind them. The backdrop and lighting was simple but striking. And the set was well-paced, varied and just very entertaining. All those pop numbers on “Restless Minds” came across powerfully, with plenty of opportunities for singalongs – “I Believe in You” was one standout. From time to time they slowed down the pace and played some lovely ballads, including three on the trot mid-set, which featured just Catherine and Lizzy and their guitarist. The songs were “Cartwheels”, the title track from their previous album, and “No Fooling Me” and “Deepest You”. The set was predominantly songs from the new album, but the crowd was certainly familiar with them. I think my favourite song is “Hopeless”, which is a bit of an anthem – you could imagine it in a Coldplay or Taylor Swift set.
The main set ended on a high, with “No Filter” and “Never Know”. They came back for a couple of songs: the closing ballad on the new album, “This Too Will Pass” and then the celebratory “Carry You Home” with support band, the Wandering Hearts, joining them on stage. A joyous end to a rather uplifting show, which, I have to say, exceeded my expectations, whatever they were. Quality entertainment.
A few more photos. Catherine left, Lizzy right, on the first one.